Crime

At year's end, eight Lexington homicides are unresolved

The bullet that caused Lexington's first unsolved homicide of 2010 was fired two years ago.

It was New Year's Eve, 2008. An argument among several people broke the silence outside an Appian Way apartment complex; then, gunshots.

The victim, Brandon L. Hearst, of Detroit, was 19. He collapsed near a playground, bleeding from a bullet wound in his neck. Several men fled before police and paramedics arrived. Hearst was rushed to University of Kentucky Hospital in critical condition.

Nothing else was heard publicly about the shooting until this year, when Hearst's name appeared on a list of homicides being investigated by Lexington police.

Hearst died Dec. 1, 2009, but the death was not ruled a homicide until early 2010.

Hearst is victim of one of the year's eight unsolved homicides, an unusually high number for the Lexington Division of Police, which has cleared 90 percent of homicides over the last 30 years.

Lexington police in 2010 listed 19 homicides, including Hearst's, Lt. James Curless said. Eleven cases were cleared by arrest.

Hearst was partially paralyzed from the shooting but survived for almost a year, according to police records. He was taken to an extended-care facility, where he eventually caught pneumonia due to breathing difficulties caused by the paralysis, Curless said.

"Even though he died of pneumonia, we can follow this train or this trail back to the gunshot wound," he said.

It's unclear what caused this year's spike in unsolved cases. It may be partially attributed to an increasing number of cases in which victims were involved in drugs or other crimes, Curless said.

That can hinder cases because other criminals are not likely to come forward with information, and the victims are less likely to have told friends and family where they were going or who they were seeing, he said.

It "drives them a layer underground," he said.

In each unsolved case, Curless said, there simply isn't enough hard evidence to make an arrest.

"Are there people identified, or is there information that would lead us to specific individuals about a lot of these cases? Absolutely. Without a doubt, yes. But not enough to arrest," he said.

Neighbors still on edge

The death of Umi Southworth is 2010's highest-profile unsolved case. The 44-year-old wife and mother was found behind the Meadowthorpe Avenue fourplex she shared with her husband, Don Southworth, and their daughter. Umi Southworth had been badly beaten, and police thought she was dead.

When the Fayette County Coroner's office discovered she was alive about three hours later, she was taken to University of Kentucky Hospital, where she died the next day.

Police have since changed their policy and began retraining officers to make sure similar mistakes don't happen. But while they have corrected what Police Chief Ronnie Bastin has called "a failure of policy and personnel," the quest to find Southworth's killer has produced few visible results.

The case has left family, friends and neighbors seeking closure.

"Our entire neighborhood still hurts because of this," said Bob Layton, chairman of the Meadowthorpe neighborhood watch.

Sita Moore, Southworth's cousin, and her husband, John Moore, have gone as far as discussing hiring a private investigator or getting help from America's Most Wanted.

John Moore said he and his wife aren't seeking emotional closure as much as they would like to see justice served.

"We just want to see this solved quickly and 100 percent correctly."

Fleeing from officers

Other open cases, such as Stephen Kavanaugh Jr.'s, have not received as much media attention.

Kavanaugh was shot on Elsmere Alley near Sixth Street on June 4.

Responding officers got into a foot chase with a man they think was involved in the shooting, but lost him during the pursuit. No suspects have been named.

Kavanaugh Jr.'s father, Stephen Kavanaugh, said he has largely made peace with the death of his son through spiritual guidance.

"I try not to let it cause depression or cause anxiety," he said. "I think that in the end somewhere, justice will be served."

His biggest concern, he said, is that "there is some criminal that's still out at large."

This year's other unsolved deaths include Victor Martin, who was killed and set on fire in a Russell Cave Road driveway in August; Rocardo Cole, who was shot outside a strip club on Dec. 18; and Kerry Mitchell, who was found killed in his North Limestone apartment Tuesday.

Charges have been filed in two other killings, but the suspects have not been arrested.

In July, Gustavo Martinez, 25, was stabbed to death in a Mexican restaurant on Village Drive. The suspect in that case, who was not named because he was a juvenile when the stabbing occurred, has fled to Mexico, Curless said.

Police are working with international authorities to extradite him back to Lexington for trial.

That investigation "is moving as quickly as we can move it, but when you involve the federal government and the Mexican consulate, it slows things down," he said.

Robin Waddy was indicted Dec. 21 for second-degree manslaughter after police submitted her case directly to a grand jury. She is charged in the death of Doni'Sha Lewis, a 2-year-old who died from blunt-force trauma injuries this spring.

The Lexington Division of Police Crimes Against Children unit have been unable to find Waddy to serve a warrant for her arrest.

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