Recent homicides push 2013 total closer to previous year’s

After experiencing a decline in homicides for the first nine months of 2013, the city of Pine Bluff saw a rash of slayings in November and December that pushed the number closer to last year’s total.

Six homicides between Oct. 1 and Dec. 3 raised the 2013 total to 17 through Saturday afternoon. There were 21 homicides in Pine Bluff in 2012.

The 2013 homicides were voted the No. 9 news story of the year by The Commercial’s editorial staff.

Three of the 2013 homicides are not classified as murders — the Sept. 7 death of 107-year-old Monroe Isadore, who was shot by police in an exchange of gunfire; the June 11 death of Galen Taylor, 66, who was hit by a vehicle that left the scene May 28 on U.S. 79 north in Watson Chapel; and the Dec. 15 death of Samuel Freeman who was shot by police after allegedly pointing a gun at them after a robbery Dec. 6 at the Family Dollar Store on West 28th Avenue.

A special prosecutor ruled that police were justified when they shot Isadore after he fired at officers. A suspect has been arrested in Taylor’s death. Freeman’s death remains under investigation and the officer involved has been suspended with pay pending the outcome of that investigation, which is standard procedure for Pine Bluff police.

Five of the 2012 homicides in Pine Bluff were not classified as murders.

The city went more than three months without a homicide this summer, one of the longest periods in recent memory, and for the first 11 months of the year, only two of the 12 reported murders were unsolved by police. In one of the two remaining cases, a suspect was arrested but released pending further investigation. The shooting deaths of two men in December also are still unsolved.

The city’s 2013 murder victims have ranged in age from 2-month-old Corey Jones to 73-year-old Betty Goldman, who was killed by her husband, James Goldman, in a case that was ruled a murder-suicide. The infant’s father, Ivory Jones, has been charged with capital murder.

Police have not made an arrest in the Jan. 26 death of Sidney Farver Jr., 21, who was shot in the area of West 18th Avenue and Elm Street and drove himself to West 16th Avenue and Cherry Street where police were called.

Also, no arrest has been made in the shooting deaths of Roderick Dolls, 28, and Joseph “Jo Jo” Campbell, 20, whose bodies were found inside a parked car in the area of West 29th Avenue and Locust Street on Dec. 3.

An investigation also is continuing into the May 24 death of Cynthia Verdun, 37, who died inside a mobile home at 1729 S. Ohio St. Jamie Gutierrez, 30, was arrested but then was released pending further investigation.

There have been three reported murders outside the city limits in Jefferson County this year — including the deaths of a mother and an unborn child. Sheriff’s deputies arrested suspects in both cases.

Overall reported crime in the city has steadily declined since January, and at the end of November, was more than 17.5 percent below reported crime in 2012.