D-FW cities see increases in homicides

FORT WORTH -- After two consecutive years of record lows, the number of homicides in Fort Worth jumped almost 37 percent in 2010, according to statistics compiled by the Star-Telegram.

And the city wasn't alone.

Arlington, Bedford, Grapevine, Denton, Haltom City and Irving also had increases.

Arlington had 16 slayings, up from 12 in 2009. Domestic-related slayings drove the increase, accounting for eight deaths compared with three the prior year.

"Before the month of December, we were on trend to be down," said Tiara Richard, the Arlington police spokeswoman. "In the month of December, we had six homicides. It's that last stretch that really haunts us. We're wondering, What could have changed? What could have been different?"

Slayings in Dallas dropped 10.8 percent to 148 in 2010, a spokesman said. The previous year, the city had 166, the fewest since 1967.

Up across the board

Fort Worth recorded 63 slayings in 2010 compared with 46 in 2009.

As in the previous year, deadly arguments and domestic violence accounted for most of the slayings, but deaths motivated by robbery, drugs and child abuse were also up, according to a Star-Telegram analysis.

"Homicides are up across the board in all categories of motive other than gang," said Sgt. Cheryl Johnson, who took over as supervisor of the homicide unit after the recent retirement of Sgt. J.D. Thornton.

"Sometimes there's not one thing we can point at," Johnson said. "Crime is cyclical in nature. It goes up. It goes down."

A gun was the overwhelming weapon of choice, used in 43 slayings. The oldest victim was 72; the youngest a 3-month-old girl.

More than three-quarters of the victims were male.

One of the slayings actually happened in 2008.

Wendolyn Lawrence, 32, was found dead inside an apartment in September 2008 and, although police suspected foul play, the Tarrant medical examiner ruled the cause and manner of death to be undetermined. In March, after receiving new information, the medical examiner changed the cause to "homicidal violence" and police later arrested the woman's estranged husband.

And in one case, the October death of Roger Dale Reynolds, 41, the victim died 19 years after the offense. Reynolds' death, the medical examiner ruled, was the result of "complications of paraplegia" caused by being shot in the chest in May 1991.

Reynolds' shooting is one of 12 homicides from 2010 that remain unsolved.

The others have been cleared through arrests or exceptional means, or warrants have been issued in the case.

In Arlington

In Arlington, investigators have cleared 14 of the city's 16 slayings by either arrest or exceptional means. In one other, a warrant has been issued.

Just the Oct. 26 death of George Arnold Hawkins, a 52-year-old newlywed shot while walking his dog, remains under investigation, Richard said. A $10,000 reward had been offered by Oak Farms Dairy for information leading to an arrest and indictment.

The oldest victim was 69; the youngest 19.

Half the victims were female, compared with one in 2009.

They included the Kimberly Deshay Carter, 29, and Jillian Smith, a 24-year-old Arlington police officer who had gone to Carter's residence on Dec. 28 to take an assault report. Police say Carter's ex-boyfriend arrived with a gun and killed both women before turning the gun on himself.

Richard said six of the city's eight domestic-related homicides were by assailants who then took their own lives.

Richard said officers and the department's victims assistance unit take note of each domestic-violence case, trying to work with victims to offer guidance and opportunities for them.

"We're looking into whether there's some ways we can do more," she said.

What's to blame for the increase of domestic-related homicides in Arlington can only be speculated on, said Mary Lee Hafley, CEO of SafeHaven of Tarrant County. The economy, she believes, may create desperate situations for some couples, shortening the time between one explosive incident to the next.

"We can't ignore the fact the economy plays a role in it, but I don't think we can lay the blame for the increased homicides relative to domestic violence totally at the feet of the economy," she said.

Hafley said the number of calls -- more than 51,000 -- that poured into the SafeHaven of Tarrant County's 24-hour crisis hot line increased in 2010.

"It looks like we're going to end the year with an 11 percent increase in calls to the hot line. That comes at the heels of a 10 percent increase the year before," Hafley said.

"If women are actually calling us more and making those decisions to leave, research sustains the fact that when the woman leaves, that is the most dangerous time for her," Hafley said. "She is saying, 'I am no longer allowing myself to be subject to your control.' He is willing to step up the cost of making that decision. The ultimate cost is committing homicide."

Staff writer Domingo Ramirez Jr. contributed to this report.

Deanna Boyd, 817-390-7655

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