High homicide rate: Tulsa killings in January keeping police busy
BY JERRY WOFFORD World Staff Writer
Friday, February 01, 2013
2/01/13 at 6:56 AM
See where homicides have happened: View a map of all homicides in Tulsa dating to 1989.
More people were killed in Tulsa in January than in any month since November 2009, which is tied with January for the most homicides in one month since at least 1989.
Twelve homicides kept the Tulsa Police Department's Homicide Unit running last month, with some of the cases still open and still consuming hours of time investigating, interviewing and hunting.
The sharp jump last month comes after a decade-low homicide number in 2012.
"It's a feeling that you get in this business: It's quiet too long, and something starts happening," said Sgt. Dave Walker, the lead homicide detective.
Eight homicides occurred in the first eight days of the month. The next four occurred in a seven-day period between Jan. 22 and Jan. 29.
Detectives believe they have solved all but five of the homicides, four of which are one case.
"You look at the 12 murders - that's not 12 events," Walker said.
Police are still searching for the person or people who killed Misty Nunley, 33; Julie Jackson, 55; Rebeika Powell, 23; and Kayetie Powell Melchor, 23, on Jan. 7. The four women were shot in the head in an apartment at Fairmont Terrace, 1100 E. 60th St.
It was the most people killed at one time in Tulsa since 1999, according to Tulsa World archives.
The case drew national attention and prompted city officials to start proposing changes to apartment ownership practices.
While city officials spoke about the factors that lead to a high crime rate in the area where the quadruple homicide happened, detectives were wading through tips and chasing down as many leads as possible, Walker said.
"It's complicated in the fact there are so many people involved," Walker said. "Everyone's working on those."
He declined to comment on the case to protect the integrity of the investigation, which he said is a priority for not only the Homicide Unit but for the whole Police Department.
"Everybody wants this thing solved, and everybody wants to solve it," Walker said. "If the chief solves it, great. A rookie patrol cop, great."
The other still-open homicide case occurred the same day as the quadruple homicide. Christopher Odis Williams, 52, was fatally shot at the Garden Courtyard apartment complex in the 4300 block of South Garnett Road.
Walker said detectives think they are close to a break in that case.
Any investigation is taxing on a homicide detective, but so many in one month taxes the whole unit, he said.
In the first 15 days of 2012, homicide detectives logged just over 69 hours of overtime, said Officer Leland Ashley. During the same period this year, homicide detectives reported just over 475 hours of overtime, a 588 percent increase. Ashley said eight homicide detectives in addition to Walker work active cases and one other detective is dedicated to cold cases.
Walker took over as the Homicide Unit's sergeant on May 31, 2011, when three homicides occurred in one day. The unit has worked several high-profile cases since then.
The unit is efficient at turning up the investigation when stress hits, Walker said.
"It gets hectic, but it's not overrun," he said.
Walker couldn't say how much sleep he and his detectives have lost this month, but he said they have been able to get enough rest to stay fresh.
"I don't think we're seeing any adverse effects" on our investigations, he said. "If we were, I think we would be able to dip into robbery detectives or somewhere to get us some rest."
The unit has started working more closely in the past few years with the Northern Oklahoma Violent Crimes Task Force and the Tulsa Police Department's Warrants Unit. The units help with surveillance and work in the field while homicide detectives can focus more on investigations.
"It works well because it keeps us more rested for that next phone call," Walker said.
With 12 homicides already this year, Walker said he is concerned about how the rest of the year will go. The last year with 12 homicides in one month was 2009, the year Tulsa set a homicide record with 71 deaths.
How you can help
Anyone with information about any Tulsa homicide is urged to call Crime Stoppers at 918-596-COPS. Tips may also be submitted online at tulsaworld.com/crimestoppers or by sending a text message to CRIMES. Text tips should begin with "Tip918." Tipsters can be anonymous and could receive a reward.
Original Print Headline: Homicides tie record
Jerry Wofford 918-581-8310
Sgt. Dave Walker, leader of the Tulsa Police Department's homicide unit, talks on the phone after a quadruple homicide at Tulsa's Fairmont Terrace apartment complex Jan. 7. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World