I-Team: First goodbyes said for slain Cleveland officer, as investigation grows

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CLEVELAND (WJW) — The FOX 8 I-Team captured heartbreaking first steps toward saying goodbye to a Cleveland Police officer killed in the line of duty working undercover, and we’ve learned of new developments in the investigation.

Friends of detective James Skernivitz spent Wednesday afternoon dressing up the funeral home with ribbons, blue lights and more.

Meantime, Cleveland Police dispatch sent out a final goodbye over police radio.

“This is a last call for detective James Skernivitz,” a dispatcher said. “The men and women of the Cleveland Division of Police are forever grateful.”

So many people want to pay their respects, the funeral on Friday has been moved from a church to the Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse. We’ve learned the funeral was moved to the arena so that more people can attend, and they can spread out in light of the COVID-19 outbreak.

At the funeral home, Mary Jo Graves spoke of a “hero’s sendoff.”

Cleveland Police Union President Jeff Follmer spoke of the outpouring of support from the community and the need for people to grieve in different ways.

Earlier this week we showed you, citizens raised money for masks with the detective’s badge number. Those will be donated to people attending the funeral to protect against COVID-19.

Also on Wednesday, more suspects went before judges. Eighteen-year-old David McDaniel Jr had his first court appearance facing aggravated murder charges. Yet, we noticed he leaned back with his hands behind his head apparently relaxing before the start of the hearing. A judge kept him locked up on a $3 million bond.

And, in Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court, a 15-year-old went before a judge. He denied the charges, and he, too, was kept locked up.

Same thing in Juvenile Court on Tuesday when a 17-year-old suspect appeared before a judge. The I-team obtained video showing three people leaving the scene of the crime.

The detective and another man with him were both shot and killed. Police say it happened during an “attempted robbery.” We’ve learned, since the arrests, investigators have been searching properties for more evidence in the case. Even Wednesday afternoon.

The I-Team checked into what could happen to those teens in court if they get convicted. The 18-year-old could get the death penalty. The juveniles could also get convicted in adult court. But the max for them would be life in prison

Back to the  final goodbye over police radio. The dispatcher also said: “Please observe a moment of silence. Detective Skernivitz, thank you for your service. God-speed, sir.”

If you’d like to find out more about the wake and the funeral, click here.

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