FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — The Fort Wayne Police Department’s homicide unit has seen an uptick in success over the last four years when it comes to clearing homicide cases.
Sergeant Dave Klein, who is one of the unit’s supervisors, says the last number he saw for the national average of cleared cases per year was 53%.
In 2022, FWPD will have cleared 83% of it’s homicides. It reached the same mark in 2021. The homicide unit cleared 86% of cases with arrests in 2020 and 2019.
“We’re having success. To be in the 80’s ins a phenomenal accomplishment. I speak for the detectives up there, they’re the ones who put the effort in night and day doing this,” Sgt. Klein said.
Last month, WANE 15 sat down with Sgt. Klein as well as Sgt. Matt Wilson to discuss their change in personnel and strategy that has led to an uptick in crimes solved.
Even with the higher rate of success, the problem remains that there are cases that do not get solved. That means there are victim’s families that don’t get the closure that they need.
Sgt. Klein said that they keep homicide records that include cold cases that are decades old — some nearly 70 years old.
“I can speak for myself, and probably a lot of other guys, I’d say it hits on a personal level. There’s guys that go home, they go home at night, they come back in the morning and the case is still there. It’s still not solved, and when you have a victim, obviously they have a mother, they have a father, spouse, brother, sister – it leaves an absence in their life,” Sgt. Klein said.
“A lot of these detectives are reaching out to family five, ten years later. They speak with them on a weekly basis, a monthly basis. These people that are deceased, they may have children that are now grown up, getting older. So, it touches them on a personal level. I think they empathize with them, they sympathize with them They want to get closure for these families, so they take it personal when they can’t close a case.”
Of the 24 homicides in Fort Wayne in 2022, there are still four unsolved. Here are those incidents:
|1/29/22||Maria Ambriz||5600 Block Standish Dr.||Gunshot|
|2/26/22||Lashawndra McDowell||2200 Block Oliver St.||Gunshot|
|4/15/22||Riley Enrietto||7800 Block Eagle Trace Cv.||Gunshot|
|5/28/22||Tyshawn Eaton||300 Block w Rudisill Blvd.||Gunshot|
“Each one has their own individual dynamics to where we need to reach a certain threshold to where we can make an arrest, and so we won’t stop aggressively pursuing these until we criminally charge or clear the case,” Sgt. Klein said.
He added that sometimes they need DNA evidence to nail down a case. Sometimes it’s digital evidence, but the issue they face most often is that they don’t have a key witness telling police what they saw.
That’s what some of the more well known cold cases from the last decade may be missing.
Sgt. Klein couldn’t speak to the specifics of each case we asked about because he said they’re still considered active investigations, even though they are now cold cases.
The first was a May 2016 shooting that took the life of 17-year-old Dontay White.
At the time, police told WANE 15 that they believed White’s death happened during a robbery and that police had identified a person of interest.
White was in a car with four others on Brickshire Parkway when two people in the car were shot. White did not survive his injuries.
The second was a February 2017 homicide that killed Quinlan Partington, 16.
According to police, Partington was found on Diplomat Drive near Mcmillen Park by a passerby. he was found with gunshot wounds and was considered to be in critical condition. He passed away. Police told WANE 15 at the time that they didn’t have any witness information to share.
The third was a shooting at East Central Towers apartments in August of 2017.
20-year-old Spencer Smith died after reports of gunfire drew police to that location. They said they found Smith suffering from bullet wounds, but no one else.
Sgt. Klein told WANE 15 that detectives still look at cold cases periodically to see if they can develop suspect information. They’ll even have detectives look at cases that they didn’t initially work to see if there’s anything that someone might not have caught.
Ultimately, he said witnesses are a vital part of determining who’s responsible in cases like the ones mentioned above.
“We can’t solve crimes, we can’t solve homicides without the public’s help. I would encourage anyone that has information that hasn’t come forth with it, has additional information, knows somebody that has any additional information, contact us. You can reach out to us at the Fort Wayne Police Department Detective Bureau. You can go online to Crime Stoppers, and we also have the P3 app. You can submit it anonymously, provide what information you know,” Sgt. Klein said.
Sgt. Klein vows that if anyone comes forward with new or helpful tips, the Fort Wayne Police Homicide Unit will exhaust every investigative lead they have.