How Raleigh police have solved 6 old murder cases in 9 months

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Raleigh Police have cleared six murder cases in the past nine months.

About a month ago, Kamiaha Haywood got a call from a detective at the Raleigh Police Department. He was taking a new look at the suffocation death of her infant son five years ago.

"It just shocked me when he hit me up and told me that we might have a chance to solve the case," Haywood told ABC11.

Then this week while she was in the hospital delivering another baby, the detective called to tell her he was going to charge James Jennings with the murder of 11-month old Zavion Haywood in 2012.

Jennings was babysitting Zavion when the child died.

"This is what I've been waiting on - justice," Haywood said Thursday. "After five years, it definitely brings closure. And I'm glad they caught him because you never know if he might do it to somebody else's baby."

The murder case was the sixth one Raleigh police have cleared in the past nine months.

"It is fairly unusual to have that many grouped together in such a short period of time," Captain Andy Murr, the head of R.P.D.'s homicide unit told ABC11.

Murr explained one of the reasons R.P.D. has had success with old cases is that whenever a current homicide detective retires or is promoted, the investigator brought in as a replacement is given an old case to hone their skills.

"They're eager to prove themselves as new to the homicide unit coming from other detective units. And so they're eager to prove themselves and really dig into those cases. It also serves as well to have a fresh set of eyes," Murr said.

Murr also said the police department doesn't use the term 'cold' cases, "Because it kind of can be interpreted as the case hasn't been investigated or cared about for some time. All our open homicide cases are being investigated or assigned for investigation."

The veteran detective also notes that R.P.D. is part of a national study on solving murders because the department has a solve rate of 95 percent over the past 25 years.

One of the most famous unsolved cases during that time is the murder of Beth Ellen Vinson. But a few years ago when the department publicized that as the oldest unsolved case a family called to ask about the case of their loved one who was murdered in a gas station robbery in 1978 that was never solved.

No one then on the staff remembered the case so detectives started going through old pre-computer files stored in boxes.

"We went back and began an exhaustive search of all of our files that we could find to identify older cases that were unsolved and make progress in those cases," Murr said.

They not only found that case but others dating back 50 years and they are now investigating a total of 60 cases during that time.

And one of the six cases cleared this year was the one from 1978 that the family called about.

Detectives say the key to solving old murder cases is often new information from people who have sat on it for years because they didn't think it was important.

If you're one of those people, R.P.D.asks that you call them and help raise their solve rate to 100 percent.
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