No arrests yet for almost half of Roanoke 2017 homicide cases

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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ7) - Nearly half of the homicides that happened in Roanoke in 2017 are still considered open cases, with no arrests for the person responsible for each crime.

According to Roanoke Police Department data, there were 16 homicides in Roanoke in 2017. It was the deadliest year in the city this decade.

Based on the statistics since 2010, 2016 was the second deadliest year with 12 homicides in the city.

Angela Hopson knows all too well what it's like to lose a family member to violent crime.

"I would do anything to bring him back, but I can't," she said through tears.

Hopson misses her 26-year-old son Jermaine Black. He was killed in a shootout at a bar in 2016. 10 others were also hurt.

"I think the worst thing is parents are not supposed to bury their child," she said.

Black was one of twelve people total killed that year. A year later in 2017, the number of homicides ticked up to 16.

"I'm so tired of hearing about somebody getting shot here, somebody got beat up there. It's like they have no compassion for life anymore."

Hopson heart goes out to the families.

"Because I know if they are going through anything I've been through that I know it hurts"

A 24-year-old man was arrested and charged with Black's murder - but later his charges were dropped because of a lack of evidence.

Nobody has been arrested for Black's death since.

"I think about it constantly but I don't know if there is going to be justice."

Through a public records request to the Roanoke Police Department, WDBJ7 found out how common or uncommon unsolved murders are in the city.

According to the data in 2016 out of twelve homicides, five cases were not closed.

In 2017, out of sixteen homicides, there are no arrests for seven meaning those responsible for taking the lives of 12 people in two years are walking free for now.

"These detectives are as frustrated as the community members are with the lack of movement in some of these cases," said Sgt. David Morris, the homicide supervisor for the department.

He wants the community to know just because the cases are not closed, doesn't mean detectives aren't working on them.

"They are always pushing these cases forward," said Morris.

He doesn't like calling the murders "unsolved" because in some cases they may know who did it but are waiting for evidence to come back from a crime lab to charge someone.

"While access to outside resources or resources from another department or lack of resources might slow down an investigation they don't impede an investigation like the lack of witness cooperation would."

For detectives, the route to justice can be faster if witnesses speak up and point them in the right direction.

"One single little piece of information may be all that's left needed to move a case forward."

For Hopson, an arrest would mean closure, but she knows there isn't a guarantee that will happen.

"All I can say is I want justice, but within my heart, I know I'll have justice one day because God is our higher power and he'll take care of that."

A year and a half after losing her son, she is looking inward to heal.

"But I have to find a peace within myself in order to move on because he's gone."

The pain the victim's families feel is not lost on Sgt. Morris.

He says they are doing everything they can to get those who have killed off the streets, but can't do it alone.

"The more witness cooperation we get, the more information we get, the better chance we have of solving all these homicides."

In the meantime, the detectives will wait for results from the crime lab in hopes of closing more cases this year.

2017
Number of homicides: 16. Number cleared: 9. Number not cleared: 7.
2016
Number of homicides:12. Number cleared: 7. Number not cleared: 5.
2015
Number of homicides: 11. Number cleared: 9. Number not cleared: 2.
2014
Number of homicides: 3. Number cleared: 3. Number not cleared: 0.
2013
Number of homicides: 9. Number cleared 8. Number not cleared: 1.
2012
Number of homicides: 10. Number cleared 8. Number not cleared: 2.
2011
Number of homicides: 7. Number cleared: 6. Number not cleared: 1.
2010
Number of homicides: 9. Number cleared 9. Number not cleared: 0.