CLEVELAND (WJW)– Clutching a picture of her late husband in her hands, Venita McCormick struggled to recall the last moments she spent with him.
“We went for a walk, it was a beautiful summer night and we went for a walk like we always did,” McCormick told the Fox 8 I-Team on Wednesday, as her sister sat next to her for comfort. Her son, and other family members and friends were nearby for support.
She said she and her husband walked to Forest Hills Park on Cleveland’s east side. It was near their home.
McCormick said there were many people outside and as they walked near Thornhill Drive and Arlington Avenue in the city’s Glenville neighborhood, she heard a commotion. Seconds later her husband fell to the ground. He had been shot in the head.
“It happened so quick,” McCormick recalled. “I was screaming for help. Cars drove by. No one stopped to help me.”
She was able to flag down a police officer, who called for EMS. A short time later, the love of her life, who she met 40 years ago in church, had died.
“It’s devastating,” McCormick said as she tried to hold back tears.
Remembering the night Wilbert, a retired Cleveland firefighter, was murdered is painful. She fights through her grief because she is hoping by sharing the story his killer will be caught.
“It’s been 7 months and 12 days,” McCormick said. “Seven months and 12 days I haven’t slept. This has just turned my world upside down. I am completely devastated. The overwhelming grief that it has caused me and my family, it’s tough to describe.”
She said she is still dealing with her one son’s unsolved hit-and-run death that happened almost five years ago. Lennell McCormick, 24, was struck by a vehicle just before midnight on Aug. 18, 2016 on Kinsman Road near East 69th Street. No arrests have been made.
“It’s very difficult,” McCormick added.
Detectives said the 62-year-old man was an innocent victim and they need witnesses to come forward.
“My husband served the city of Cleveland for 30 years and he fought for people and families,” McCormick said. “He crawled through burning buildings to help save people. He died on the streets of the city he loved. We need help.”
Former coworkers and family members stressed that Wilbert dedicated his life to saving and helping others.
“He kept everybody safe,” said Lt. Rudolph Buffington, of the Cleveland Division of Fire. “He made sure everyone was going to be able to go home when their shift was over.”
His brother-in-law Keith Brown said they want to find the person responsible.
“We want justice,” Brown said. “We need justice before we can have peace. Right now we don’t have any peace.”
Anyone with any information on the murder is urged to call Cleveland homicide detectives at 216-623-6206 or Crime Stoppers of Cuyahoga County at 216-252-7463 as soon as possible. Crime Stoppers is offering up to a $2,500 reward for information that leads to the arrest and indictment of the person responsible.
“I need justice,” McCormick stressed. “I need answers, I need closure.”