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.

Frank Morris / KCUR

As Kansas state government braces for another round of budget cuts or tax increases (or both) to balance the state’s declining revenue, Wyandotte County is looking forward to a big jump in tax collections. That’s just part of the county’s profound, if spotty, change of fortunes.

Death spiral

Twenty years ago, Carol Marinovich became mayor of a city in steep decline. The Kansas City, Kansas she grew up in was collapsing. The house she grew up in, along with half her Strawberry Hill neighborhood, had long since been bulldozed to make way for I-70. But that was far from the worst of it. Wyandotte County seemed locked in a death spiral. 

Willem Velthoven

With one of the highest infant mortality rates in the country, Wyandotte County is taking steps to fix that problem.