Lexington homicide count running unusually high

A little more than a third of the way into 2011, Lexington police have investigated nine homicides. That's nearly half the number of cases in all of 2010 and three times the number of homicides by this time last year.

Last week there were three deaths in six days.

Dennis Michael Kelly was found brutally beaten at a Centre Parkway duplex Thursday.

Anthony Lewis, 24, was shot multiple times outside his Trent Boulevard apartment on April 29. Last Sunday, Brian E. Carr Jr., 19, was shot and killed outside a downtown bar on East Main Street.

Police are still investigating those three deaths, said Lt. James Curless of the Lexington Division of Police. No arrests have been made, he said.

The year started off in a violent way: with a Jan. 4 triple homicide on Shaker Run Road, a killing police have called drug-related. It was Lexington's first triple-killing since 1999, when Richard Allan Sherroan was charged with killing his stepfather and two other men. Sherroan was convicted in two of the deaths and committed suicide after five years in prison.

Though nine homicides is unusually high for early May, the number is not alarming, said Curless, head of Lexington's robbery and homicide unit. It doesn't necessarily indicate there will be a more homicides than usual by year's end.

Lexington averages from 15-25 homicides a year, Curless said. The all-time high is 26.

"They ebb and flow so much," he said "There's been some years where we start out and we think 'Boy, we're going to be really high this year,' and then all of a sudden you don't have one for three months."

Curless said there were five homicides in early May of 2005, which grew to 10 by June 1. Police had investigated 16 homicides by year's end, compared to 19 homicides investigated in 2010, a year that began relatively slowly.

Curless said that even when Lexington has a higher number of homicides than usual, it's still generally fewer than other metro areas.

There were 53 homicides in Louisville in 2010, said Dwight Mitchell, spokesman for the Louisville Police Department. There have been 16 homicides so far this year.

Toledo, Ohio, which is close to Lexington's total population with 287,208 people, had 26 homicides last year and has had nine homicides so far this year, Toledo Police Sgt. Phil Toney said. Four of those cases were tied to one unusual circumstance — a landlord hooked up a gas generator inside a home that had no electricity, killing four tenants, including a 10-year-old girl. The landlord was charged with reckless homicide, Toney said.

Until Thursday, all of Lexington's homicide victims in 2011 were killed by guns. Kelly died of blunt force trauma, according to a news release issued Friday by the Fayette County coroner's office.

The first shooting on Jan. 4, left three men dead: Donald Adams Sr., his son, Donald "Rocky" Adams Jr., and their friend, Ronnie Sparks at a home on Shaker Run Road.

The men's friend and former neighbor Willie Blancet Sr. was charged with three counts of murder. He was indicted in February and pleaded not guilty to the shootings in March.

The next murder happened on March 20 in the parking lot of a townhome complex on Hedgewood Court. Police say John D. Cherry Jr., 29, shot cab driver Amine Lemghaili, who had given him a ride. Cherry has not been indicted by a grand jury.

Next, two men wearing masks shot Micole Dent, 32, in the parking lot of a Fortune Drive sports bar. Dent was standing outside talking with friends when the men approached and killed him. No arrests have been made in the case.

Another shooting near a bar happened on April 17. Police said Mike D. Rieder, 49, and James R. Muzic, 29, met at the Office Lounge bar on Eastland Parkway. They chatted outside for a few minutes before Rieder offered to give Muzic a ride, Detective David Richardson said at Rieder's preliminary hearing April 25.

Minutes later, in a gas station parking lot next door to the bar, witnesses saw Rieder pull Muzic out of the car. The two began shoving each other, and Rieder drew a gun "put it in the face of the victim and told him to get away and that he meant business," Richardson said.

The gun discharged, shooting Muzic in the face, and Rieder fled, later calling police and admitting to the shooting. Rieder's case is pending review by a grand jury.

The spike in murders comes in the year following an unusually high number of homicides went unsolved by Lexington police, which generally makes arrests or otherwise clears more than 90 percent of homicides. Of 2010's 19 homicide investigations, six remained unsolved as of Saturday.

Curless said that officers were still investigating each case.

"Nothing has been dropped, nor would we allow (detectives) to drop the ball on something else. Our other cases are still a priority," he said.

Curless said that none of the homicides that have occurred this year appears to be related, except for the Shaker Run Road triple homicide in January. Most of the homicides appear to be the result of an existing conflict or a personal relationship, he said.

There is no reason for average citizens to feel unsafe, he said, because the killings "do not appear to be random acts of violence."

While he said nine is significant it is not alarming. "I'd like to see the number at zero for the year, but obviously we've never had a year that that happens," Curless said.

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