Indy Unsolved: Witnesses sought in the 2008 murder of Steve McElwain, Jr.

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Dec. 4, 2014)– On the afternoon before a holiday dedicated to giving thanks with family, a group of people gathered in a circle outside of a west side abandoned home. While an aunt led prayers, a young woman fell out, moaning in tears on the grass, weeping for a life lost too soon.

“Lord, it’s been six years,” pleaded the prayer leader. “We are not taking matters in our own hand. We are praying to the Heavenly Father that this will be revealed.”

Everybody in the circle knew Steve McElwain, Jr.

“Please let it be revealed whatever happened, please, in Jesus’ name. Amen.”

With that the family of the prayer circle closed around and lifted up the distraught woman.

A little boy the family calls Stevie III watched silently.

The McElwain family was in front of the house where Stevie Jr. was found, tied and asphyxiated, on the afternoon of July 7, 2008.
Detectives think his body had been out back, next to the garage, not far from the alley, for five days.

“We believe the initial disturbance started out front here somewhere,” said Det. Chuck Benner of IMPD pointing to the street. “It seems to me as if there was a group of people involved in what they did to Stevie McElwain.”

What the suspects did was extremely brutal and complicated and personal.

Benner said McElwain’s death likely stemmed from a $500 debt amongst a group of associates who had drugs in common.

“It would be hard for one person to subdue him and take him down and keep him down the way he was tied up,” said Benner. “I don’t think one person could do that by himself.

“It’s pretty apparent to me that whoever did this, it was a personal matter between them and Stevie McElwain.”

How can Benner, a veteran homicide detective, why no one called police with all the commotion that would attend more than one person tying and killing a man in an abandoned backyard between two occupied homes?

Benner paused while thinking of an answer to explain the social breakdown behind 936 West Udell Street.

“All I can say is that perhaps in this neighborhood there’s more than one disturbance going on a daily basis.”

Benner thinks he knows who was there when McElwaine died, and who has first-hand information about the killing.

“There are still people from time to time who talk about this case when I’m involved in other cases so I know that it is still in the minds of the people from this neighborhood and the family especially.

“We believe that there have been other cases that we’ve been involved in that may have been retaliation-type shootings because of this case.”

Benner means the backyard bar-b-que shooting two years later and not far away on at West 32nd and Elmira streets that wounded six and killed two.

There are still many friends and family members of Stevie McElwain who live not far from the murder scene.

“The Lord came and got my son, not the streets,” said Steve McElwain, Sr. “The Lord came and got him, but he gave me his son to fill in for him I guess.”

Stevie III was three months old when his teenage father died six years ago. The boy stood before his grandfather holding a Crimestoppers poster of his father’s case.

“We pretty much know who done what around here really from just listening to people talking,” said McElwain.

Detective Benner said despite the dozens of murders he’s investigated, some cases always stick with him.

“I need people who were close to Stevie McElwain back then who have any information about this case to come forward and let me know what they know. I believe there are witnesses that I’ve never spoken to that never came forward that could help a lot for closure in this case.”

Benner said he joins with the McElwain family in believing that someday he will close the murder of the 19-year-old man.

“It’s good to let people involved in these kind of cases know they don’t go away no matter how much time passes. We’re still working actively to find out who did it and bring somebody to justice that was involved.”

If you have information about the murder of Stevie McElwaine out back of 936 West Udell Street in the summer of 2008, and could use the reward money, call Crimestoppers at (317) 262-TIPS.