GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Family, friends and community members gathered on the West Side of Grand Rapids Friday evening to remember the life of 46-year-old Santino Ysasi.
His body was discovered Wednesday morning outside the former site of St. James Catholic Church and police continue to look for his killer.
People shared stories at the vigil and lit candles in his memory Friday night outside the vacant church.
Ysasi was called Tino by many and was known throughout the neighborhood. His sister Christina Miller says the family is heartbroken by the loss.
“My whole life my brother was the protector. The protector to everybody and in the end, he was not protected,” Miller said.
The family focused on the good times and how he made an impact on others. They say he was kind, funny and loving. Ysasi loved music, Cadillacs and listening to people tell stories. He leaves behind five children, a wife, his mother and many grandchildren and other family members. Ysasi’s grandfather was Martin Morales who used to own the Little Mexico Café and ran for city mayor in 1991.
Nikia Youngblood, a cousin, says she was touched by the amount of people who attended to show their appreciation for Ysasi.
“Tino touched a lot of hearts. He never turned anybody away. He was never judgmental. He always had a smile on his face,” Youngblood said.
Charnessa Williams, a friend who lives in the neighborhood, is hopeful police can find the person responsible for his death.
“Somebody knows and with all of the surveillance equipment that is available in this area, not just from the library but even these businesses around here … I’m hoping for the sake of the individual who did do it. That the law gets him,” Williams said.
Chief Eric Winstrom says he met Ysasi when he was new to the city on a ride-along with the Homeless Outreach Team and pledges to continue the search for his killer.
“Very likeable, very nice man, people who know him and the officers who know him would describe him as just an extremely sweet and kind man so, really, it’s devastating,” Winstrom said.
The police department issued a safety warning to the unhoused community and are working with partners to provide more services.
If you know anything that could help investigators solve this case, call GRPD detectives at 616.456.3380 or Silent Observer at 616.774.2345.