Too many unsolved murders in Arizona - East Valley Tribune: Columnists

Too many unsolved murders in Arizona

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Retired Mesa master police officer Bill Richardson lives in the East Valley and can be reached at bill.richardson@cox.net.

Posted: Friday, July 23, 2010 3:30 am | Updated: 11:28 pm, Wed May 25, 2011.

“Heartache all day, up all night, non-stop tears, sick to my stomach... only to start all over again the next day. Day in and day out. 7 weeks today. The pain grows worse... the tears don’t stop and the only thoughts in my mind every second of the day are of my daughter.” — Taken from the Facebook page of Karen Montenegro, the mother of Tempe murder victim Kyleigh Sousa.

It’s been two months since Kyleigh Sousa was murdered in a downtown Tempe restaurant parking lot during a botched attempted robbery. The restaurant was within 50 yards of a police station, which shows the brazenness of those who participated in this tragic and senseless crime.

Tempe police have yet to make an arrest in the Arizona State University student’s murder. The sooner a homicide is solved the better. The first 48 hours are critical in a homicide investigation. After that the trail only grows colder and colder.

One can only imagine the pain being felt by Kyleigh’s mother and family. It’s the same pain and anguish felt by others who have lost a loved one to the senseless crime of murder.

Over the last decade, only about half the murders in Arizona have been solved by law enforcement.

I’ve worked hundreds of sex crimes investigations and a couple dozen homicides, and there’s no doubt in my mind that the giant statewide holes in Arizona’s criminal justice and law enforcement systems have contributed greatly to the large numbers of unsolved murders.

The lack of a statewide information sharing system on crime and criminals, an underfunded and neglected state crime lab and the continued failure of the Arizona legislature to fund and support the Cold Case Task Force has only made it easier to get away with murder in Arizona.

A December 2007 Cold Case Task Force report — authored by a committee chaired by current interim Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley — concluded: “Cold case homicides are one of the most significant challenges facing law enforcement agencies. Improving the outcomes of cold case homicide investigations is a critically important task.”

Unfortunately, while the report makes considerable recommendations to help solve the growing number of cold homicide cases, the Arizona Legislature has continually failed to support the basic fundamental changes needed to make Arizona safer and to allow greater healing for those who have lost a loved one.

Now, with the state’s aggressive and energized resource focus on the border, one can only guess when and if Arizona’s thousands of unsolved murders will ever get any attention.

In an effort to bring attention to the growing number of unsolved murders and to help fund programs that support victims and survivors of violent crime, the Sousa Family has set up The Kyleigh Ann Sousa Memorial Foundation “to keep Kyleigh’s light shining by helping others left behind when those they loved were taken too soon.” Contributions can be made to: The Kyleigh Ann Sousa Memorial Foundation, P.O. Box 757, Brick, New Jersey 08723. http://www.kyleighsousafoundation.org

The In Loving Memory of Kyleigh Ann Sousa Facebook page is at: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=127166673976536&ref=ts

If you have information on Kyleigh’s murder or any other unsolved murder, please call Silent Witness at 480-WITNESS.

One unsolved murder is too many!

Retired Mesa master police officer Bill Richardson lives in the East Valley and can be reached at bill.richardson@cox.net

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