homicide

Courtesy of Crystal Hays and Shanta Barnett

In late August last year, Shanta Barnett got a call from her 15-year-old daughter Brannae Browne. 

“Momma, did you hear about what happened?”

Natasha Hays, the mom of one of Brannae’s friends, had been killed in a drive-by shooting, she told her mom.

Barnett warned her daughter to be careful.

“She was like, ‘Momma, we didn't do nothing so why we gotta be worried about it?’” Barnett remembers. “Something in my heart told her just to watch out, to be safe.”

Peggy Lowe / KCUR 89.3

When it comes to violence in Kansas City, Missouri, Police Chief Rick Smith says that, more often than not, someone knows what's going on before it ever happens. 

To that end, the KCPD recently announced a substantial increase in rewards for homicide tips, from $2,000 to $5,000. Smith says the police need help from the community to prevent violent crime.

That's also a goal of the Kansas City Health Department's Aim4Peace program. But, Smith says he can't comment on the effectiveness of the violence prevention group's work. 

Wichita Police have identified the woman found dead in her home Tuesday morning as 42-year-old Perla Rodriguez. She was known for her work in helping abused women in the community.

Police determined Rodriguez died of blunt-force trauma. WPD spokesman Officer Charley Davidson says her boyfriend has been arrested and taken into custody for first-degree murder.

Courtesy of Kristen Oehlert

Alice Snodgrass was worried about her friend Nicki Alexopoulos. Worried about a threat from within her family.

“When she went silent, when she wasn't on Facebook, that was an indication that something was wrong,” Snodgrass says.

So, she drove 200 miles to check on Nicki. But as the two of them were catching up in the living room of Nicki’s home in Kansas City’s Brookside neighborhood, the “threat” showed up at the door. Nicki’s 38-year-old son, Patrick Alexopoulos, barged in with a 9 mm gun and a demand.

Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

Despite a drop in murder rates at the national level, homicides in Kansas City are on the rise.

Courtesy the Clark family

Pretty Pennington was killed by a girl fight, a handgun and an AK-47.

She’d been to a friend's wedding that Saturday night, Nov. 12, 2016 — a fun party where she danced all night, picking up her phone only to post pictures to Snapchat. Her mother, Marvella Clark, was sitting at a table and noticed Pennington’s cell phone buzzed constantly.  

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

It was a clear night in late July 2016 on the 3600 block of Askew Avenue on Kansas City’s East Side.

But inside one home, a fight was brewing. It was just after midnight, the police report would later say, when Lon’Nasha Tate opened the freezer to find that the ice cream she had saved for her kids was half empty.

Paul Sableman / Flickr - CC

Violent crime rates in Kansas City are on the rise, yet again. Today, we hear the first installment of KCUR's "The Argument," a reporting series that looks beyond the worrying statistics, and into the arguments that escalate to homicide. Then, we discuss how an 1878 eclipse, similar to the one that will cross the country on August 21, catalyzed scientific thought in America.

Photo illustration by Andrea Tudhope

The quiet neighborhood in east Kansas City, Missouri, was just coming to life that Friday morning, May 20, 2016, when Daniel Wilson pulled up in his old white Monte Carlo, witnesses say, carrying a grudge and a gun.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker, with the victim's grieving mother at her side, said Monday that a man has been charged with the murder of a 24-year-old east Kansas City woman.

Ashley Geddes was discovered dead in her bedroom by her mother on June 1.

The suspect is 25-year-old Cedrick Russell, who lived next door to the victim on east 45th Place. Russell is also charged with sodomy, burglary, stealing and other offenses.

Tony Webster / Wikimedia Commons

Kansas City has tried just about everything to reduce crime — more cops, more money and even a mayor-appointed task force — but the rate of violent crime continues to climb. So where do we go from here? Today, we hear from community leaders and listeners about how Kansas City should approach this growing issue.

Peggy Lowe / KCUR 89.3

A youth master plan, a public health campaign and storefront community resource centers were among the recommendations unveiled Thursday by Mayor Sly James’ Citizens Task Force on Violence.

Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

For Mayor Sly James, this has been a particularly busy time. On Tuesday evening, he gave his State of the City Address, which we discuss today, along with a bond proposal James says will trim, but not eliminate, a backlog of public works projects in Kansas City, Missouri.

EVA WILSON / LEAWOOD BAPTIST CHURCH

In 2016, the homicide rate in Kansas City, Missouri, was the highest it had been in a decade. Twelve of the people killed that year were under the age of 16. Meet some of the people whose lives have become intertwined with this ongoing violence.

Subscribe on iTunes, Google Play and Stitcher

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

Pastor Adam Carter is standing next to a single white cross in the front lawn of the Leawood Baptist Church on State Line Road. For the final weeks of the year, the lawn was a sea of white crosses, each representing a homicide victim. The visual, he says, would stop you in your tracks.

"Each cross wasn't just a piece of wood, it represented a human life," Carter says. "So when you look at it from that perspective, it was extremely overwhelming."

Eva Wilson / Leawood Baptist Church

Dec. 21 was the winter's solstice, the longest night of 2016. That night, roughly 200 people showed up for a vigil at the Leawood Baptist Church to honor nearly 200 people who lost their lives in homicides in the Kansas City metropolitan area in 2016.

For weeks, the church's front lawn was a sea of white crosses: 193, each with a name, each representing a life lost.

In Kansas City, Missouri in 2016, there were 127 homicides, marking the highest number in nearly a decade. 

Danny Wood / KCUR 89.3

According to statistics sourced from local police departments, the total number of homicides in the Kansas City metropolitan area reached 200 in 2016, the highest for nearly ten years. As many Kansas Citians prepared to welcome in 2017, community organization, AdHoc Group Against Crime, held a vigil Saturday morning to remember these victims and support their families.

El Dorado Police Department

In a twisted crime spree that lasted from 1974 until 1991, Dennis Rader stalked and killed ten people in and around Wichita, Kansas. During and after the spree, he taunted pursuing authorities in letters he sent to police, local news and, once, left in a book at the public library. In the letters, Rader established his identity with a handle that caught on quickly: BTK.

Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

The City Council is considering an $800 million bond that may improve Kansas City, Missouri, infrastructure. Today, Mayor Sly James discusses that proposal, and the city's increasing murder rate. Then, we speak with Todd Graves, Governor-elect Eric Greitens' pick to lead Missouri's Republican Party.

El Dorado Police Department

First, a forensic psychologist who spent years communicating with Dennis Rader reveals what drove the serial murderer to kill 10 people in and around Wichita, Kansas. Then, two of Kansas City's best-known jazz performers talk about their latest album, how they met, and the area jazz scene.

Lisa Rodriguez / KCUR 89.3

"Mr. Townsend...you couldn't find a better person than that person," says Lola Madrigal, remembering her friend Jimmy Townsend, the late owner of the Green Duck Lounge in Kansas City.

Madrigal joined a big group of Townsend's friends and family across the street from his club on Saturday to celebrate his birthday by carrying on one of his favorite traditions.

"For three days, as long as I can remember, forty years or more. Just fed everybody, anybody who would come through — free. Three days, every year for his birthday," says Abel Titsworth, a close friend of Townsend. 

Tex Texin / Wikimedia Commons

Kansas City’s murder rate is getting a lot of attention.

The number of lives lost to murder in Kansas City, Missouri, spiked 40 percent between 2014 and 2015.  And that put the murder rate at 23 per 100,000 residents — among the nation’s leaders, according to FBI data released last month.  

Since becoming a Kansas City, Missouri police officer in the 1950s, Alvin Brooks has spent a lifetime working to reduce crime and injustice in his city. Even as we look back at all he’s already done, we ask the equal rights activist what Kansas City still needs to do.

On Tuesday, Alvin Brooks was awarded at lifetime achievement award from the South Kansas City Alliance. He is also this year's recipient of the Truman Public Service Award.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

The father of a toddler who died last week after accidentally shooting herself with his gun has been charged with second degree murder, Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker announced Wednesday.

Courtenay Block, 24, told police he was sleeping when his 2-year-old daughter shot herself in the head April 21.

“Children are not responsible for their own safety,” Baker said at a news conference. “That’s our job. Your job and mine.”

Courtesy

The Wyandotte County District Attorney’s office announced Thursday that it had filed charges in a case that has stumped authorities for 27 years.

Melvin Shields, 48, of Wichita, was charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the shooting deaths of Steve Ray, 33, and Jolene Jones, 27.

Ray and Jones, who were described as long-time friends who had a daughter together, went to lunch on April 27, 1988 and their bodies were found at 19th and Argentine streets the next day.

Montgomery County Jail

U.S. Reps. Kevin Yoder and Blaine Luetkemeyer want answers after a Mexican man allegedly murdered five people in Kansas and Missouri last week.

Pablo Serrano-Vitorino, 40, is accused of killing four people in Kansas City, Kansas, March 7 before leading law enforcement on a cross-state manhunt that ended after a fifth murder in Montgomery County, Missouri.

“Mistakes were certainly made on a variety of levels,” says Yoder. “You have immigration and customs officials having multiple opportunities to detain this man and not being able to do so.”

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Wyandotte County District Attorney Jerry Gorman wants first crack at prosecuting Pablo Serrano-Vitorino, the Mexican man accused of killing four people in Kansas City, Kansas, Monday night.

Kansas City, Kansas, police found Michael Capps, 41; Jeremy Waters, 36; Clint Harter, 27; and Austin Harter, 29, at a home on South 36th Street in what Gorman described as a “rural” location.

Cody Newill / KCUR 89.3

Frustrations ran high at the Citizen Task Force on Violence's first listening session Saturday morning, as several dozen Kansas Citians spoke out on how to curb violence in the city.

William Thomas, a probation officer in Johnson County, summed up what many of the attendees want out of the task force: a concerted effort before its self-imposed November deadline.

Kansas City’s new Citizen Task Force on Violence is up and rolling as it confronts the difficult question of why there’s so much violence in the metro. The committee had its first meeting last week, amid another spike in homicides in recent weeks.

Guests:

KMBC

Kansas City Police Chief Darryl Forté is starting the year with his hands full, after another streak of violent crime.

So far, the city has seen eight homicides in the first ten days of January. This, following a particularly deadly end of 2015.

“I’ve been concerned (about violence) my entire life as a young male growing up in Kansas City," Forté told host Steve Kraske on Up to Date. "I stay awake at night I think, ‘Darryl what else can you do?’” 

Pages