Cody Pitts had a presence that filled up an entire room. A former high school football player, the 26-year-old’s 6’3”, 240-pound stature made quite an impression, but it was his friendly, easy-going demeanor that earned him the nickname “Gentle Giant.”
“He was just an all-around good guy,” Cody’s brother, Chad Pitts, told Dateline. “He was the guy who would give the shirt off his back if someone needed it. He was always there for you.”
After graduating Hubbard High School, Cody entered the labor union where he worked in construction. Chad remembers his brother being hardworking in everything he did, but also making time for his family.
Chad, who is 13 years older than Cody, was living a few hours away in West Virginia when he got the call on March 7, 2015 that his brother had been murdered.
“I was told that my brother was gone… murdered,” Chad said. “It didn’t even make any sense. He was just left to die on the curb in the snow.”
According to Hubbard Police, Cody was last seen around 2:35 a.m. on March 7, 2015. He left the Downtown Café and Patio Bar on North Main Street where he had been hanging out with friends, and crossed North Main Street walking down Orchard Street.
Chad told Dateline his brother was walking to his friend’s house when he was shot.
Less than an hour later, Cody’s body was found by a passerby alongside Orchard Street. According to police, coroner Dr. Humphrey Germaniuk, who died in 2018, said Cody died of a gunshot wound to the head and neck.
The homicide, which marked the first in Hubbard since the 1990s, police said, was a shock to the community with a population of about 7,500. Since it was a tight-knit community, Cody’s family believed an arrest would happen immediately. But the days and weeks passed with no arrest.
While mourning the loss of Cody, their family received more tragic news. A month after Cody was killed, Cody and Chad’s mother, Vada Pitts, was diagnosed with cancer. Eight months later, during the week of what would have been Cody’s 27th birthday, Vada lost her battle with the disease. She was only 56 years old.
“She had cancer, but she died of a broken heart,” Chad said. “My brother’s death truly broke her.”
Chad told Dateline their family made a promise to his mother that they would continue searching for answers in Cody’s murder and not give up until they get justice.
“It looked like an open and shut case,” Chad said. “In our minds, there was no question who did it. And he’s still out there. He could kill again. And that’s terrifying.”
Hubbard Police Chief Robert Thompson and Detective Mike Banic would not tell Dateline whether or not they have a person of interest in Cody’s case, but said they have questioned hundreds of people and investigated countless rumors and stories from that night.
Chief Thompson told Dateline that Cody’s case is not cold and is very much an open and active investigation. He stresses that the case is the No. 1 priority of the police department.
“It’s our goal, our No. 1 priority to solve this case and get closure for the family and the community,” Chief Thompson said. “We believe someone out there knows something and are encouraging them to come forward.”
Detective Banic, who was assigned to the case in 2018, said he’s committed to the case.
“There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about it,” Banic said. “And we won’t stop until we have the person responsible for Cody’s murder in handcuffs.”
One thing that keeps Cody’s story going after six years is the support from the Hubbard community. At night, the porch lights glow a bright green in honor of Cody. Billboards with Cody’s picture are up along the highways in and out of Hubbard. And every year around March 7th, his friends and family find a way to remember the one they call Gentle Giant.
The last few years, they’ve held golf tournaments in memory of Cody, who was an avid golfer. This year, gatherings were restricted due to the pandemic, but the community honored Cody in other ways, including sharing memories on the Facebook page Justice 4 Cody Pitts, which was created to spread awareness and updates on the case.
As this month marks six years since Cody was murdered, Chad replays the promise he made their mother over and over in his head.
“As an older brother, I’m supposed to be the protector, but wasn’t able to protect him from this,” Chad said. “But I can keep fighting for him. And that’s what I intend to do.”
Anyone with information about Cody’s case is asked to call the Crime Stoppers of Youngstown, Ohio at 330-746-CLUE or Detective Mike Banic at 330-534-6286. A $25,000 reward is being offered by the family and by Crime Stoppers for information that leads to an arrest.