HPD homicides clearance rate rising, but families of unsolved homicides have questions

HOUSTON – Houston and homicides -- the two have been much more prevalent since 2020. A historic surge producing numbers not seen in nearly 30 years on the streets of Houston.

However, as 2022 begins to close its final chapter, there is good news... The city is seeing fewer killings.

The current pace, according to the Houston Police Department, has the total number of homicides down by roughly 10%.

The change is positive, but their struggles do remain for many families as the death of their loved ones remains unsolved. This comes at a time when the department is seeing a higher number of cases being solved, including one recent high-profile arrest.

Marnita Hinton is one Houstonian still waiting for justice.

“I’m trying to figure out who murdered my son,” said Hinton, whose son, Christopher Mena, was shot dead in south Houston in November 2020.

Hinton says she has communicated recently with Houston Police Department Chief Troy Finner who tells her, “They will find my son’s murderer. It’s just going to take time. But like I told him, it’s been two years now, how much time does it take?” questioned Hinton.

Lakisha Everett is in the same position. It has been two years as well since her father was attacked and killed in his own home.

“It’s important to me to find the people or person who took the life of our dearly beloved Richard Graves,” said Everett.

When we first started speaking with Everett and Hinton about their cases, Houston police’s clearance rate of homicides was approximately 62%.

This was under the previous Chief Art Acevedo.

Now, Chief Troy Finner says his department’s homicide clearance rate is at 82%, meaning a suspect has been identified and charged.

The murder of Migos rapper Takeoff took only weeks for HPD to make an arrest. The city announced the capture of suspect Patrick Clark on Dec. 2. The 33-year-old was charged with shooting and killing the rapper at a private party in downtown Houston last month. Chief Finner told the city last Friday, “Everybody took a role in this investigation.”

But now, Hinton has questions about what is being done in her son’s case.

“It makes me feel like where do I stand in your place?” said Hinton.

Houston Police Officers Union President Dough Griffith said there is a distinct difference between the two cases.

“It has to do with the attention that the media plays,” said Griffith. “Once you get that kind of attention out there, people talk much more because they know what is going on and how important it is to the public.”

Tips are pivotal to solving homicides. However, so are dollars in the eyes of law enforcement as they fund necessary resources.

Griffith says there has been a positive change under Finner when it comes to HPD’s homicide division.

“The chief has also done a good job of trying to boost the homicide division and get more people over there so we can clear these cases better,” said Griffith.

The improvement also comes at a time when more overtime dollars have been poured into public safety by Mayor Sylvester Turner.

Still, the so-called improvement is frustrating, according to Everett and Hinton, especially following the arrest in the Takeoff case.

“They are celebrities and you can have a press conference. What about when my son who was murdered? Did you have a press conference for me? No,” said Hinton.

As for Everett?

“They might not be a celebrity in the world’s eyes, but they are a celebrity in their families’ hearts,” said Everett.

Celebrity or not HPD treats every homicide the same says Mayor Turner.

“Regardless of whether you are an individual that is a celebrity or not a celebrity at all, we are going to investigate every case with the greatest degree of intensity, utilizing all available resources to find who the person was or who the persons were,” said Turner.

Hinton’s position?

“I think it’s a good thing that you are pouring resources in there, but he’s wealthy is that why you are doing it? My son, we’re not wealthy. You are not pouring a lot of resources into my child’s cases so what is with that?” asked Hinton.

Bottom line for Everett? It’s been emotionally taxing but she is not giving up.

“Richard Graves has someone that is going to continue to fight for justice for him and the life that he lived,” said Everett.

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