Vigil honors memory of 2 killed in Metroparks Rocky River Reservation

A June 11 vigil in the Rocky River Reservation honored the memory of Carnell Sledge and Katherine Brown, who were killed there. Police are still looking for a suspect.

Family and friends of Carnell Sledge and Katherine Brown gathered June 11 at the site where their bodies were found in the Rocky River Reservation.

The pair had been shot to death and were found by kayakers about 5 p.m. on June 4. Cleveland Metroparks police continue to investigate.

But on this day, a week after their deaths, about 75 people recalled Sledge and Brown’s lives and shared their memories. Prayers were said and balloons released during the vigil.

Brown’s family was invited, but they said they are not ready to speak publicly yet.

Those who spoke described Sledge as always wanting to help others, which made his violent death all the more senseless to those who cared about him.

“He was always there for other people,” said Sledge’s cousin Layota White, of Lyndhurst, “Whether it was helping kids out, being there if somebody else needed something done for family or work, he would do it.”

Another cousin, Taneka Wills Glass, of Akron, recalled Sledge’s enthusiasm for life and others, especially children.

“He had that great smile, which could just light up the entire room,” she said. “He loved working with the children and helping them. He would encourage them to do their best and work with them to help them do just that.”

Sledge worked from 2013 to 2018 for the Westlake City School District as a special education assistant. He also was a volunteer for Applewood Centers, which provides mental health services, and for the past two years he was a program manager at Empower Sports, a Cleveland nonprofit organization that provides sports and exercise programs for children and adults with physical and cognitive disabilities.

The 40-year-old North Olmsted man was found by a park bench near the Lorain Road Bridge and had been shot several times in the head. His friend Brown, 33, of Fairview Park, was found dead nearby on the riverbank. She had been shot once in the head.

Co-workers from the Westlake schools recalled Sledge’s ability to command affection and respect from students and colleagues.

“I would see him in study halls and he was always good with the students,” said teacher Julie Davidson. “They would love talking with him and being around him because he was good to them. But he could get their attention. I remember one time there were some students acting up and I told him. He gave them a look without saying a word that settled them all down right away.”

Special education aide Karen Jones recalled how most people called him “Sledge.”

“He was just ‘Sledge’ to most of us,” she said. “It was a sign of affection and respect because he always responded to other people. He cared about everybody and we all knew it.”

Friends of Brown’s at the vigil declined to comment, while other friends and family have not responded to requests for comment. Brown was a 2004 graduate of Olmsted Falls High School. Her death notice said she attended Bowling Green State University and Cleveland State University. She worked in the jewelry business for seven years and she enjoyed practicing yoga, exercising outside, listening to music, playing volleyball and snuggling with her rescue cat, Kip.

Her death notice described her as a passionate and loving aunt, affectionately called "TT" or "Mr. Ray" by her niece and nephews.

Her death notice indicated that donations in her memory can be made to the Cleveland Animal Protective League at clevelandapl.org.

Cleveland Metroparks Police detectives are leading the investigation but are not talking about possible suspects, motives or other aspects of the case. The FBI has offered a $20,000 reward for information about the killings while Crimestoppers has also offered up to $2,500 for tips on the case. Metroparks Police Chief Katherine Dolan has said the homicides were an isolated incident and that the parks are safe.

Contact this reporter at assoceditor@westlifenews.com or 440-871-5797.

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