The Journal Gazette
 
 
Sunday, January 02, 2022 1:00 am

'21 county homicides near record

1 short of record 49 in 2016; police say none random

JIM CHAPMAN | The Journal Gazette

Allen County last year almost broke its homicide record set in 2016, but investigators say the general public is safe.

The county ended up with 48 homicides, one shy of the record 49. None of the killings were random, investigators said.

Most of the homicides, 41, were committed in Fort Wayne. Five were in unincorporated Allen County. New Haven police investigated two.

Detective Sgt. Tim Hughes, head of the Fort Wayne Police Department's homicide unit, said most of the city's homicide victims had “some sort of existing relationship or association with their assailants. This does not imply that the majority homicide victims were engaged in criminal activity themselves. It simply means the majority were targeted for a variety of reasons.”

Many homicides over the years have been linked to drugs, gangs or abusive relationships, said Michael Burris, chief investigator for the Allen County coroner's office, which investigates suspicious deaths.

“Through interviews, that connection comes out,” he said.

Seventy-nine percent of last year's homicides in all of Allen County have been solved. That means someone has been arrested or charged, the killers killed themselves or were killed during the crimes, or prosecutors are considering or have ruled self-defense.

In Fort Wayne, 32 homicides, or 78%, have been solved. All five Allen County cases have been solved and arrests have been made in one of New Haven's two cases. Thirty-seven of 2021's victims – 77% – were shot to death.

Six cases involved at least two victims and two cases involved three or more. In June, Cohen Bennett Hancz-Barron, 21, was charged with four counts of murder in the stabbing deaths of a woman and her three children in a home in the 2900 block of Gay Street, near McKee and East Pontiac streets. He is expected to stand trial in May, and prosecutors are asking that he be sentenced to life in prison without parole.

In November, Samuel Mason Long, 20, fatally shot his parents, Mark A. Long, 50, and Lisa Renee Long, 45, and sister, Mahala Long, 15, before killing himself in a home at 7118 W. Cook Road.

“I will say that some of the cases have seemed a little more depraved,” Hughes said.

He also found them sporadic. The county had no homicides from June 21 to Aug. 12, including the entire month of July. But there were four in August, three in September, four in October and seven in both November and December.

In late August, Markese Newman, 19, of Findlay, Ohio, became the county's 25th homicide victim when he was stabbed near Schwartz and Eby roads in northeast Allen County.

Shane Poe, 19, was preliminarily charged with aggravated battery after he told police he stabbed Newman during a fight in a vehicle on the way home from a concert in Fort Wayne. The initial charge was dropped after it expired, but the Allen County prosecutor's office said in late December it is investigating.

The stabbing has left Charles Newman without a son. They had reunited and had started a business, Need it Hauled. Markese had just graduated from high school and would have turned 20 in October.

“We were excited about a new chapter in our lives,” his father said.  

Charles Newman has conducted his own investigation, including interviewing people who lived near the scene of the stabbing to determine what happened.

“He's somebody's brother, somebody's son, somebody's uncle,” Newman said.

When Burris joined the coroner's office in 2010, the county's yearly average was about 24 homicides. Now it's about 32, he said.

Hughes and Burris were unsure how much of an effect the coronavirus has had.

“It has some sort of bearing on people's moods or behavior,” Hughes said.

A staff of 12 Fort Wayne detectives aggressively attacks homicides early on, said Hughes, who became head of the homicide unit in late 2018.

The city's clearance rate, according to police department numbers, went from 53% in 2018 to 86% in 2019 and 83% in 2020.

The team recently gained another officer, Sgt. Matthew Wilson.

“I'd really like to have two more (officers), but other areas have to be staffed as well,” Hughes said. “We don't stop working until we reach a point the trail's kind of gone cold.”

jchapman@jg.net

By the numbers

Gender

Male: 29

Female: 19

Cause

Shot: 37

Stabbed: 6

Blunt force injuries: 4

Drowning: 1

Race

White: 23

Black: 22

Hispanic: 2

Asian: 1


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