GR community mourns the loss of a man killed in front of the old church

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Family, friends and community members gathered on the west side of Grand Rapids Friday night to remember the life of 46-year-old Santino Ysasi.

His body was discovered Wednesday morning in front of the old site of St. James Catholic Church and the police continue to look for his killer.

People shared stories at the vigil and lit candles in his memory on 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 over the loss.

“All my life, my brother has been the protector. Everyone’s protector and in the end he was unprotected,” Miller said.

The family focused on the good times and how he impacted 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 Moraux who owned the Little Mexico Café and ran for mayor of the city in 1991.

Nikia Youngblood, a cousin, says she was touched by the number of people present to show their appreciation for Ysasi.

“Tino touched many hearts. He never fired anyone. He never passed judgment. He always had a smile on his face,” Youngblood said.

Charnessa Williams, a friend who lives in the neighborhood, hopes the police can find the person responsible for her death.

“Anyone knows and with all the surveillance equipment that is available in this area, not just from the library but even from these businesses around here…I hope for the good of the person who has it done. Let the law catch up with him,” Williams said.

Chief Eric Winstrom says he met Ysasi when he was new to town on a ride with the Homeless Outreach Team and pledges to continue the search for his killer.

“A very likeable and very kind man, people who know him and officers who know him would describe him as an extremely sweet and kind man, so, really, it’s devastating,” Winstrom said.

The police department issued a security warning to the homeless community and work with partners to provide more services.

If you know of anything that could help investigators solve this case, call GRPD Detectives at 616.456.3380 or Silent Observer at 616.774.2345.

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