ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Albuquerque Police are struggling to solve a record-breaking number of homicides this year. KRQE News 13 sat down with the homicide unit’s head to learn why.
It’s a job we wish didn’t have to exist, but APD homicide detectives are hard at work trying to solve 72 cases that have occurred in 2017.
“Families who’ve suffered a loss from homicide don’t actually ever get closure. it’ll never be the same…But if we can bring some justice to it, some explanation of what happened, that’s what we work towards,” Sergeant Liz Thomson said.
Sergeant Thomson, leader of the unit, says it’s been particularly tough meeting that goal this year, which has beat out a record of 70 set in the 1990’s.
Her five-person unit has investigated all kinds of incidents this year; everything from two strangers getting into a dispute turned deadly at a car wash to a man accused of killing three people during an armed robbery spree.
“It has overwhelmed us. And it’s simple math. If you have ‘this many’ man hours to work on solving a case, they take a long time to solve,” Sergeant Thomson said.
Only about half of this year’s cases have been solved — a significantly lower percentage than years past — but it’s not just the influx of homicides that’s to blame.
“We have a lot of murders in Albuquerque in 2017 where we just flat don’t know what happened. There just isn’t a lot of evidence. There weren’t witnesses at the scene,” she said.
This is especially true with the 15 homeless people killed. Only one of those cases has been solved so far, and even more concerning is that three of them may be connected. Eric Manning, Lonnie Whittle and Eric Hicks were all found in locations “out of sight” around town over a five-month period. Sergeant Thomson says the way their bodies were positioned were also similar and that all were found early in the morning. She couldn’t elaborate much further to protect the integrity of the cases.
Sergeant Thomson says even the smallest tip can break any case.
“We know that people who commit these violent crimes usually talk to somebody,” she said.
She calls 2017 the worst year for crime she’s seen since she began her career with APD almost 20 years ago.
“Just in the sheer numbers of victims in Albuquerque and for us investigating them and trying solve them,” she said. “It’s very, very frustrating.”
Sergeant Thomson tells us she is actually retiring next week, and that it’s been difficult to hand off “unfinished business” at the homicide unit. She has faith, however, that her team will thrive without her and continue to solve these cases.
The team solved six cases from previous years, this year.