Questions Linger in Murder that Drove AZ Immigration Policy

Rob Krentz, a prominent Arizona rancher, was found shot to death 30 miles from the Mexican border in 2010, and the case was used to justify the state’s harsh immigration laws. But seven years later, it is far from certain that his killer was in the U.S. illegally.

The Los Angeles Times examines the unsolved 2010 shooting death of Rob Krentz, 58, an Arizona rancher whose murder near the Mexican border was used to justify the state’s harsh immigration laws. He was found shot to death and slumped in his ATV 30 miles the border. No incident has hardened feelings about illegal immigration in Arizona more than the slaying of Krentz, head of one of the oldest ranch families in southeast Arizona. It was the impetus less than a month later for the passage of the “show your papers” law, which required police to ascertain the immigration status of anybody suspected of being in the U.S. illegally and helped cement Arizona’s reputation as the country’s toughest state on immigration.

Seven years later, the slaying still resonates, often invoked in local arguments for the massive wall that President Trump has proposed along the border with Mexico. Usually lost in conversations about Krentz is that it’s far from certain that his killer or killers were in the U.S. illegally. The investigation has identified suspects from both sides of the border. In recent months, as southern Arizona is again embroiled in the debate over stepped-up border security and stronger measures against illegal immigration, his widow, Sue Krentz, has reemerged on the public scene, this time as a vocal advocate of an expanded border wall.


Murder on Hold: Rural Cops Need Help to Solve Rising Cold-Case Backlogs

The rising number of unresolved homicides nationwide taxes the resources of most police agencies. But the hardest challenges are faced by smaller departments. Here’s one way to address that.

In an earlier column for The Crime Report, I wrote that the number of unresolved or “cold case” homicides accumulating around the country represents a major public safety challenge.

Since 1980, the national total of such cases has grown to more than 240,000—and with present clearance rates of about 61%-62%, the number of unresolved homicides nationwide is increasing by 6,000 to 7,000 each year.

I suggested that one way to tackle the cold case issue is to form “dedicated” cold case teams.

But for smaller departments, that represents a significant challenge. A research project I completed in 2016, entitled “Cold Cases: An Exploratory Study of the Status of Unresolved Homicides in the USA.” found that of those agencies which reported having cold cases but do not have a cold case team, 83% of them were departments with less than 100 sworn officers.

That should concern all of us. The evidence suggests that resolving these cold cases saves lives and reduces crime by getting criminals off the streets.

In smaller jurisdictions, the public safety challenge represented by these cold cases is no less serious. But even with the best will in the world, the kind of multi-disciplinary team I suggested is often beyond their reach—because of lack of adequate staffing, lack of funding, or both.

More tax dollars allocated to crime labs would help turn around evidence more quickly, especially considering that it can take more than 12 months in some jurisdictions to process DNA evidence. But a smart way to tackle the larger manpower and funding issues felt most keenly in smaller jurisdictions would be forming regional cold case teams with surrounding agencies.

Police have successfully used “Multi-Agency Task Forcing” for decades to combat drugs, gangs, human trafficking, and locating fugitives. Why not use the same multi-agency task forcing concept to investigate cold cases?

Here are two ways such a task force can be structured, the first using combined police agencies themselves; and the second by working through District Attorneys’ offices.

The Police Agency Model

City and county agencies can easily form their own multi-agency cold case team where the burden of manpower and even funds can be evenly distributed and not bankrupt one single agency.

One department will have to take the lead, but the contributions should be equally distributed based on size of the agencies, number of cases involved and the availability of funding.   Consideration should also be given to including the State Police in cases where broader powers and jurisdictions are involved—or even to including a federal representative such as the FBI.

A good example of such a state-sponsored regional unit can be found in the Grand Rapids area of Michigan where the team is configured with multiple agencies and run by a Michigan State Police detective. According to the team leader, 18 murders have been solved through this process between 2007 and 2016—which is a satisfactory figure for a good working unit.

The District Attorney Model

A significant number of district attorneys (DA) in this country have legal jurisdiction over several counties that include multiple police agencies. Under the leadership of the DA, each police department in his/her jurisdiction can provide a representative to the cold case team to supplement the DA’s investigative staff.

Each team member brings with them his or her department’s own cold-case homicides. Consolidating them will maximize efforts.

This concept has already had successful roll-outs in places like Orange County, FL, and Hamilton County (Chattanooga), TN. Data available so far from the Hamilton County program shows that nine cold cases have been resolved in the last few years—again an impressive result.

If such regional teams didn’t exist, the likelihood of any cold cases begin resolved would be slim to none.

Can either the regional law enforcement or DA model work in other parts of the country?

I believe it can. Dedicated teams enable jurisdictions to attack the cold-case problem at both ends of the spectrum—hot cases and cold cases—at the same time. That’s as much of a priority for smaller jurisdictions as for larger ones.

It is time to be pro-active, and to stop chasing our tails reactively by putting out fires, from one hot homicide to another.

Working them from both ends will reduce the number coming in the door, and help create a better and safer environment for all— which will in turn restore confidence in local police.

The research makes clear that in jurisdictions with populations of less than 100,000 and/or departments with less than 100 sworn officers, there is very little effort to resolve the problem.

So why not consolidate efforts?

Any effort to resolve cold, unresolved homicides is worth applauding.  But, as we know from experience and research, without a “dedicated” team, properly trained in the nuances of cold case investigations and utilizing an organized process that maximizes effectiveness, the effort is counter-productive. Time is being wasted.

James M. Adcock

A colleague of mine who works on a non-dedicated cold case team related that about 70% of the cases he works on come either through news media inquiries or from a family’s request through the police command and staff.

Research tells us that this is the least likely method to bring about a successful resolution; yet we do it all the time.

It’s time to think differently.

James M. Adcock, PhD, a retired US Army CID agent, a former Chief Deputy Coroner of Investigations in Columbia, Richland County, SC, and a former Tenured Professor at the University of New Haven, has spent the past 19 years specializing in cold case homicides by training law enforcement, researching, and reviewing cold cases for agencies around the U.S. He has written two books one on Cold Case Investigations and the other on Death Investigation, both second editions. He also lectures on cold case investigations at the Dutch Police Academy, Apeldoorn, the Netherlands. Readers’ comments are welcome.


With Homicides Rising, Tijuana Groups Call for Military

With the murder total on a record pace this year, two organizations seek passage of a federal “law of internal security” that would allow Mexican soldiers to carry out civilian public safety duties.

With homicides on the rise, Tijuana business and civic leaders are calling for Mexico’s military to once again head up Baja California’s efforts against organized crime, reports the San Diego Union-Tribune. Members of the Consejo Coordinador Empresarial in Tijuana, an influential business umbrella group, and the city’s Citizens Council for Pubic Safety are urging the passage of a new federal “law of internal security” that would allow Mexican soldiers to carry out civilian public safety duties. “We don’t want to go back to the past, to the situation of 2007 and 2008,” said the council’s Juan Manuel Hernández, describing a period of high-impact violence, including gruesome beheadings, public shootouts, and kidnappings.

The call for an expanded military role has come as more than 530 homicides have been registered in Tijuana this year. If the killings continue at the current pace, this year’s total will exceed last year’s record 916 homicides. State homicide investigators have attributed much of the violence to turf battles among low-level street drug dealers rather than an all-out war among the dominant drug organizations that held the city in its grip a decade ago. The Business Coordinating Councils for Baja California’s five municipalities said that this explanation fails to take into account the effects of crime on the general population. “Enough of saying that it’s just criminals killing each other, and that the law-abiding Tijuanenses are living in peace,” the statement said, noting that crimes such as street robberies, residential and business burglaries, and car thefts are also on the rise.


AZ Serial Shooting Suspect Claims Innocence

Phoenix police got 3,500 calls about the string of shootings that left nine people dead in 2015 and 2016. It was just one tip, reporting a man who looked like the police composite sketch of the suspect,t hat led police to Aaron Juan Saucedo, 23.

Aaron Juan Saucedo, the man identified by Phoenix police as the suspected “Serial Street Shooter,” blurted to a judge that he was innocent after being read the 26 charges, including eight counts of first-degree murder, that police are seeking against him, the Arizona Republic reports. Police said Monday afternoon that Saucedo had been arrested in connection with the string of shootings that left nine people dead and two injured between August 2015 and July 2016.

Saucedo is now facing nine counts of first-degree murder and has been jailed since April 19 in connection with the Aug. 16, 2015, shooting death of 61-year-old Raul Romero, a man whom his mother had been seeing. Police say it appears the other victims of the Serial Street Shooter were chosen at random. Yesterday, the judge ordered that Saucedo be held without bond “until the charges are completely resolved.” Three thousand, five hundred calls came into the Phoenix Police Department regarding the Serial Street Shooter, but it was just one of those tips — reporting a man who looked like the police composite sketch of the suspect, driving a BMW — that led police to Saucedo, 23. the Los Angeles Times reports


TN Bounty Hunters Charged With Murder; Shot Wrong Man

The seven bounty hunters and bondsmen were looking for a wanted fugitive when they confronted four men in a car outside a Clarksville, Tenn., Walmart. But the fugitive was not in the car, and the bounty hunters have been charged for shooting Jalen Johnson, who was not wanted.

Seven men bounty hunters and bail bondsmen have been charged with first-degree murder for killing a man they were pursuing in a case of mistaken identity, reports the Leaf-Chronicle of Clarksville, Tenn. The fatal shooting of Jalen Johnson happened April 23 after a confrontation in a Walmart parking lot in Clarksville. A grand jury that met this week returned multiple indictments against the bounty hunters, including first-degree felony murder. Each is being held on $300,000 bail.

The bounty hunters thought that William Ellis, who has warrants on file, was one of four men in a car with Johnson, police said. But Ellis was not in the car, and none of the men in the vehicle had warrants on file. The seven bounty hunters approached the Nissan at Walmart, then chase it a short distance before two of the men in the car were shot, Johnson fatally. Most of the seven men chasing the car were bounty hunters, and some were bail bondsmen. Generally, bondsmen arrange bond to get detainees out of jail, while bounty hunters are paid to track down and detain people who fail to meet the bond agreement. Bond was set at $300,000 for each man.


Baltimore Murders Top 100 in April, a Two-Decade First

The city had not recorded 100 homicides by April since 1998. “We have to engage this community or it’s going to continue to be a bloodbath,” said the Rev. Donte Hickman.

For the first time in nearly 20 years, Baltimore reached 100 homicides for the year before the end of the April, the Baltimore Sun reports. Three new cases yesterday pushed the number of victims counted for 2017 to 101. Among them was a fatal shooting near the downtown Inner Harbor before daybreak Monday. In the afternoon, a man was gunned down in East Baltimore, in the same block as a new senior center that was rebuilt after it burned while under construction during rioting two years ago. “We have to engage this community or it’s going to continue to be a bloodbath,” said the Rev. Donte Hickman, whose Southern Baptist Church built the $16 million center.

The city, which experienced record-high per-capita murder rates the past two years, had not seen 100 homicides before the end of April since 1998. Just three years ago, it took until July 4 for the city to record 100 killings. Homicides are up more than 34 percent compared to the same time last year, and non-fatal shootings are up 27 percent. The downtown shooting occurred around 4:30 a.m. at Calvert and Lombard Streets. Witnesses said they heard four gunshots. The intersection is one of the busiest in the downtown area.



Cleveland on High Alert After Killing Is Posted on Facebook

Police were alerted when Steve Stephens, 37, began threatening on Facebook to murder someone at random. He then did just that, saying on a video, “I’m going to kill this guy right here. He’s an old dude, too.”

Cleveland was on tenterhooks as police searched for a man who uploaded to Facebook a video that showed him murdering a grandfather chosen at random on as he walked along a city street on Easter Sunday. The target of the manhunt was Steve Stephens, 37, who is accused of shooting Robert Godwin Sr., 74, at about 2 p.m. on East 93rd Street, just south of Interstate 90 in Cleveland’s Glenville neighborhood. In the video, Stephens gets out of his car, walks up to Godwin, and tells him to speak the name of Stephens’ girlfriend. He tells Godwin that she is the reason for what was about to happen to him, and he then shoots the man in the head, according to the Plain Dealer.

Before the shooting, a number of people called police to say that Stephens was on Facebook ranting about his miserable life and threatening to kill someone at random. And then he did just that. In the videos, Stephens seemed calm and even laughed about the pain and fear he knew he would cause the city. Stephens’ Facebook page was deactivated about three hours after Godwin was killed, but the videos were grabbed and shared by news outlets across the world and posted on YouTube. As he prepared to approach Godwin, Stephens calmly says, “I found somebody I’m about to kill. I’m going to kill this guy right here. He’s an old dude, too.”


Murders Rise In Columbus; It’s Not Clear Why

Police spokesman says a popular theory that police are pulling back over fear of criticism is not true in Columbus. “They’re making arrests. The patrol cars are out there rolling,” says Sgt. Rich Weiner.

The national murder total has been trending down for decades. That’s not true in Columbus. The city ranks 14th in the U.S. in population, but its homicide rate was seventh-highest last year, at 12 people killed for every 100,000 residents. The city had 106 homicides last year and 99 in 2015, the Columbus Dispatch reports. “We’re not able to blame a couple extra murders on any one particular problem. Violent crime in general has gone down,” said police spokeman Sgt. Rich Weiner. Chicago’s 2016 murder rate of 28 per 100,000 people was the highest among the 15 biggest U.S. cities. “There’s no definitive answer to why we’re seeing the uptick in cities,” said Darrel Stephens of the Major Cities Police Chiefs Association.


Criminologist Richard Rosenfeld of the University of Missouri-St. Louis points to the opioid epidemic and the effects of law-enforcement agencies cutting back on policing efforts since high-profile use-of-force incidents led to protests. Also, some minorities might not report crimes because they don’t trust the police. Instead, they handle conflicts themselves, which can lead to more violence, Rosenfeld said. In Chicago, the number of stops and arrests have declined, he noted. Weiner said Columbus police are not pulling back. “We’re not seeing that here at all. Officers are going out there and doing their jobs. They’re making arrests. The (patrol) cars are out there rolling.” The heroin and synthetic-opioid epidemic has showed no signs of easing, leading to drug dealers clamoring for business and territory. Turf wars often lead to violence. “These are not disputes that can be settled by the Better Business Bureau, police or courts,” Rosenfeld said. “They are often settled by violence.”


Murder Clearance Rate Drops Under 50% in Philadelphia

Possible causes include a shrinking pool of homicide detectives and a belief that media coverage of police brutality allegations has fueled distrust in minority communities. Homicide detectives cite interrogation policies implemented three years ago, which allow witnesses to decline interviews or leave them whenever they want.

More often than at any point in recent memory, people have been getting away with murder in Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. The city’s homicide clearance rate last year dropped below 50 percent, the lowest the city has seen in at least 15 years, and the third consecutive year that the rate has decreased. The police homicide unit posted a clearance rate above 70 percent as recently as 2012 and 2013, nearly 10 points higher than the national average. Last year, when there were 277 murders, the rate was just 45.4 percent, meaning police arrested dozens fewer murder suspects than they had just a few years earlier.

Theories for the downturn vary, from a shrinking pool of homicide detectives to a belief that media coverage of police brutality allegations has fueled distrust in minority communities, worsening the decades-old challenge of finding cooperating witnesses. Homicide detectives also blame interrogation policies implemented three years ago, which allow witnesses to decline interviews or leave them whenever they want. The rules, designed to protect the civil rights of witnesses and suspects and prevent police from eliciting false confessions, also mandate that suspect interviews be recorded on video. “They changed everything,” said one veteran investigator. “Witnesses are a thing of the past,” said another. Police Commissioner Richard Ross, a former homicide unit commander, was instrumental in crafting the new directives and said they are not going away. Criminologists note that such policies are common in cities with high clearance rates, and simply force detectives to build cases on surveillance video, cellphone records, or other forensic evidence, rather than relying on confessions or witness testimony.


Seven More Chicago Murders; Trump Says City “Needs Help!”

It was only the 21st time in the past 16 years that Chicago has seen that many homicides in a single day. The president offered no specifics in a tweet on how he might help the city.

Seven people were fatally shot in Chicago on Wednesday, making it the deadliest day of 2017 so far, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. It was only the 21st time in the past 16 years that Chicago has seen that many homicides in a single day. The bloody day prompted another tweet from President Trump, who wrote “Seven people shot and killed yesterday in Chicago. What is going on there – totally out of control. Chicago needs help!” As has been the case with other Trump tweets on the subject, there were no specifics on how he might help the city.

The new homicide victims ranged from a pregnant woman in her 20s to a 60-year-old man. Five of the seven homicides came within a two-hour period. Ninety-eight homicides have been recorded in the city in the first eight weeks of the year. That’s one more than the number of people killed in the city during the same time last year, which was considered the most violent in Chicago in two decades. Trump’s tweet is the latest in a string of salvos that led Mayor Rahm Emanuel to travel to Washington, D.C., to discuss what sort of federal help the Trump administration might be willing to provide the city. Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said last night that the rampant violence in the city is “unacceptable to me, to the Mayor and to everyone who lives in Chicago.”