‘Our lives are at a standstill’: Advocacy group calling on FWPD to investigate older open cases

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – A local justice advocacy group is calling on Fort Wayne police to solve more cases in our area. The group Justice, Accountability & Victims Advocacy also known is JAVA is the organization behind this push.

Despite the fact that Fort Wayne Police Department’s crime solve rate increased in recent years, the group believes there is more work to be done, specifically for cases prior to 2017. One of the group leaders, Stacey Davis, told WANE 15’s Briana Brownlee there are still too many unsolved cases from homicide, missing persons and drug overdoses.

Since 2016, Fort Wayne had 234 homicides, 152 of those are cleared but 82 of those remain open. For those families there is still a hole, an opening, and a void that can’t be filled until the case is closed.

Kimberly Gomez is the mother of 25-year-old Noele Trice. Her daughter and her future son-in-law 29-year-old Bryan Lash were found dead at their home on Weiser Park Avenue back in 2017, leaving a two-year-old without parents.

“I had to back off the grandma duties and do the motherly duties. Then where is my fun as spoiling him as grandma? That kind of hurts a little bit,” Gomez said. “The pain is still there, you just learn to deal with it.”

The year her daughter was killed there were 40 homicides. Sixteen were cleared and 24 remain open, including the homicide case of Trice and Lash. Gomez said the last she heard was that there were no new leads and that she wished FWPD would push a little harder for the unsolved cases that happened years ago.

“Those cases are still very important, they are still being investigated, researched and trying to be solved,” said Jeremy Webb, Fort Wayne Police spokesman. “They’re not forgotten. If you remember a few years back with April Tinsley – I mean that’s been unsolved for decades and was recently solved based on new DNA evidence with new technology that came out. Just rest assure that we are doing what we can to try and bring those cases to conclusion and bring justice to the families.”

Another known case in our area is Kevin Nguyen. He went missing nearly three years ago after a night out at the Brass Rail bar. Nguyen was kicked out of the Brass Rail after being involved in an altercation on Dec. 8, 2018. According to his grandmother Dee Campbell, he was spotted on surveillance footage around 12:40 a.m. on Dec. 9, 2018 and was never seen again.

Kevin Nguyen has been missing for two weeks
Kevin Nguyen, missing since December 2018

“When people have homicides, or someone missing out of their life that’s not a missing person you actually have a headstone, you have a place that you can go see,” Campbell cried. “I understand people worried about their own safety but their lives have moved on and our lives are at a standstill. For Kevin to be found, we need this town.”

To help with the investigations, the group started collecting fact sheets from victim’s families that will help highlight the status of each family’s case. JAVA is also hoping a new Indiana law will help police close more cases.

“There is a new state law that we are going to help families get their cases put together to submit to the Indiana State Police, to potentially get them to look into these cases that our local law authorities can’t solve,” Davis said.

In recent years, the FWPD solve rate for cases has increased drastically.

201648 Homicides27 Cleared21 Open 56% Clearance Rate
201740 Homicides16 Cleared24 Open40% Clearance Rate
201845 Homicides26 Cleared 19 Open57% Clearance Rate
201929 Homicides25 Cleared4 Open86% Clearance Rate
202042 Homicides35 Cleared7 Open83% Clearance Rate
202130 Homicides23 Cleared7 Open77% Clearance rate YTD
Stats provided by Fort Wayne Police regarding homicides from 2016-2021

A case is considered “cleared” if police make an arrest, identify a suspect or the act was considered to be in self-defense.

FWPD asks for anyone with information about any crime to call FWPD at 260-427-1222 or Crime Stoppers at 436-STOP. The department recently started a Facebook group for missing persons. Webb added that even if the case is old, it doesn’t matter because you may have the missing piece that can help solve a case.

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