FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Homicide cases can be open for months, sometimes years, leaving victims’ families in limbo while they wait for an arrest and closure through the courts.
Leroy Allison is tired of waiting. His daughter, Alonna, was killed last August.
“‘No arrests made’ needs to be changed.” – Leroy Allison, homicide victim’s father
“Whoever said it gets easier, I don’t believe it. It’s hard for it to happen that way,” Leroy said.
Alonna, had just turned 17 and asked to go to a bonfire with friends.
“I grew up around the corner on Winston, so I know that neighborhood. So, when she said that, I said sure. I told her to have fun and that I loved her,” Leroy said.
He never thought those would the be last words he said to his daughter. Gunfire between rival groups erupted in the street at the party. Alonna was hit and died at a hospital.
“Kids that were there keep saying the same names and I guess police know those names, but why there hasn’t been an arrest, I have no idea. I have no idea.” he said.
Knowing the people shooting that night are out in the community is frustrating for Leroy.
“That’s the hardest thing about it because they’re still out there enjoying life,” he said. “I went to a football game and they were at the football game. Remorseful? No. They’re not remorseful. They’re still enjoying life.”
Allen County Prosecutor Karen Richards shares his frustration.
“It’s frustrating for us. It’s frustrating for the police. It’s frustrating for the victim’s family,” she said.
Richards couldn’t talk about Alonna’s death because the case is still open and under investigation. 15 Finds Out just learned Wednesday that there is a pending warrant request in the case, but who the warrant is for or what the charge could be wasn’t released.
“If I file something and I lose, I’m done. I am done. The investigation stops. I can’t ever redo it.” -Prosecutor Karen Richards
Richards did say it’s not as easy to prosecute homicides as it seems in television shows and movies.
“Something is not committed, solved and tried within an hour,” she said. “Investigations and interviews take time.”
While seven months may seem like a long time to the Allison family, Richards said most investigations take a long time to do right. It’s also not unheard of, Richards said, to know who committed a crime and not be able to make an arrest.
“That’s really frustrating and it happens all the time. Word on the street is such-and-such did so-and-so. But, if you don’t have anybody who will come forward and testify and you don’t have any physical or scientific evidence backing that up, you’re pretty much stuck and we hear that all the time,” she said.
Fort Wayne police records show 28 official homicides in 2015. Three, including a police action shooting, were declared justified self-defense by the prosecutor. Of the 25 left, 14 cases are still open investigations, four have warrant requests pending, and seven cases, or nearly a third, have arrests.
“Sometimes it takes months to put together a decent case. So, even if there’s only been seven [cases with] arrests, that doesn’t mean there are only going to be seven,” Richards said. “Police are investigating every single one of those and charges on a lot of those will be filed. It’s just that it’s inappropriate to file something before it’s ready.”
A case could also be closed without an arrest when the suspect in one homicide becomes the victim of another.
“That happened a few times in the stats from last year. It may be a homicide, but your perpetrator is now deceased. It’s actually solved,” she said.
It’s not clear how many cases that scenario applied to last year.
A major roadblock detectives and prosecutors often run into is getting witnesses to testify in court.
“A lot of times it’s the typical bar full of people and there’s a shooting and nobody saw anything. They’re all in the bathroom. Well, they can’t all be in the bathroom and we know somebody saw something, but nobody comes forward, so, yeah, it’s very difficult,” she said.
That’s compounded when the shooting involves gangs.
“Your witnesses are all part of your crime and they are more interested in solving things on their own than involving the system. Those are the kinds of cases it’s really difficult to get eye-witness testimony,” Richards said.
Still, Richards said the state of prosecuting homicides in Fort Wayne is strong.
“I think we’ve got to be doing something right because we don’t lose them very often, which is good. I think we go out on a limb and take enough chances, but we don’t take them to people’s detriment and that’s important,” she said.
That means sometimes families are left waiting for arrests.
“I think they keep thinking there must be a way, there must be a way, there must be a way,” Richards said. “What we keep trying to explain to people is, if I file something and I lose, I’m done. I am done. The investigation stops. I can’t ever redo it. It’s done. Whereas if you keep working on something you never know what is going to come up. We’ve found defendants on homicide cases 20 to 25 years after the crime and have still been able to be successful in prosecution. I know it’s a frustrating thing to hear from us, you’re just going to have to wait, but sometimes that’s the way it is.”
While Leroy still waits for justice for his daughter, he has a plea to the people shooting at each other the night Alonna died.
“It has to weigh on your conscience. If you were out there that night shooting, do the right thing. Maybe you can start a trend. Instead of doing the wrong thing, do the right thing. Start a trend of doing the right thing. Go man up and turn yourself in,” Leroy said.
He holds onto the hope that if more people come forward, the ending of the homicide reports will start to change.
“There are too many shootings going on with no arrests made. That’s all you hear at the end of [the news story]. No arrests made,” he said. “‘No arrests made’ needs to be changed.”