RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Wake County is dealing with a backlog of murder cases. There are 100 cases waiting to be tried, and the backlog means it can take at least a year for cases to make it to trial.
"It is nearly impossible for us to ever catch up," said Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman.
Freeman said as Wake County's population has exploded, the murder rate crept upward as well. Although the murder rate remains low based on population, it has nearly doubled in the last 10 years.
Her office is trying roughly 50 homicides annually. Freeman said her office is funded to handle about half that many.
"You're trying to get those cases through a system that traditionally was built and funded to handle a community to 25-30 homicides a year," explained Freeman.
She said this is not a problem unique to Wake County.
Last week, Freeman was in our nation's capital as the issue has made it to the forefront of the national conversation. She was part of a delegation for the National District Attorney Association.
"We've seen coming out of COVID a lot of turnover within office, and we have a lot of new people who are learning how to best handle cases," Freeman said.
A survey was done not that long ago on how many additional Wake County prosecutors are needed for the caseload.
"On any given day, we are operating at a deficiency of 13 Assistant District Attorneys," Freeman said.
That means there is long list of families right now waiting for a loved one's name to be cleared or to finally see justice after losing someone.
The Hedingham mass shooting is one of the cases waiting to go to trial.
Austin Thompson, who was 15 years old at the time of the shooting, is charged with killing his brother, a Raleigh Police officer, three women and a family pet.
Victim Mary Marshall's fiancé Robert Steele said when the shooting happened in 2022, families were told the case would likely be tried in 2025.
"Whether he stands trial or not, it doesn't change the fact that Mary's gone," said Steele. "At this point, the bigger concern for me is the sheer number of cases. Why do we have so many murder cases particularly?"
Freeman said even with the delays, her office is moving cases along within in a timeframe seen as a standard in the system.
"What you're seeing is other case types begin to suffer," she said. "You're taking limited resources and trying to spread them out as much as you can, you know, to carry the weight."
Freeman expects district attorneys from around the state to collectively to go to the General Assembly sometime in the next few sessions and petition for more funding to meet the need.