Unsolved Homicides: A Public Safety Crisis

On January 10th, 2004, my world turned upside down.  At 11:45pm, I got a call from my son Terrell’s friend Eric stating that he had been shot.  I rushed to the scene and was met by a cop who said that it didn’t look good; the paramedic was transporting him to UCLA.  Terrell, a 19-years-old freshman at Humboldt State University, died that night.

Although there were close to 50 people out there the night he was murdered, no one was willing to come forward and say what they saw.  With no witnesses and no murder weapon recovered, the police never identified Terrell’s murderer.  My family and I were left without justice, wondering, each day, why this tragic incident occurred….while the killer walks free.

Unfortunately, my story isn’t uncommon.  According to a recent report by California Crime Victims for Alternative to the Death Penalty, The Silent Crisis in California: Unsolved Homicides, 1,000 murders go unsolved each year in California.  In Los Angeles County, 54% of murders are unsolved.

We have a public safety crisis on our hands.

Part of it can be blamed on a culture of not “snitching” because of fear of retaliation.  But a large part can be blamed on a lack of resources for law enforcement to investigate and find witnesses who are willing to come forward.

According to a recent article in the Los Angeles Times, the LAPD is forcing its officers to put cases on hold and take days, even weeks off due to overtime cuts.  Detective Nate Kouri, one of the LAPD’s most productive homicide investigators, was unable to work on any cases, old and new, for six weeks.  

Yet, while we watch police officers forced to sit idle because of budget cuts, rape kits left untested, and state crime labs close, we continue to throw hundreds of millions of dollars away on a death penalty that everyone agrees is broken.

We currently spend $137 million per year on the 700 inmates on death row.  If we converted these sentences to permanent imprisonment, we would save $1 billion in just 5 years.

Permanent imprisonment is a safe, swift, cost-effective alternative to the death penalty.  Not only does it get killers off of our streets forever, it frees up valuable resources for solving murders and imprisoning tens of thousands of killers.

Although there have been many studies on the effectiveness of the death penalty as a deterrent, the results have been inconclusive.  We do know, however, that catching killers is the best deterrent.  Those who get away with murder learn that they can.

By shifting limited public safety resources away from the death penalty and towards solving every murder, we can achieve justice for all crime victims.  Not just symbolism for a few. 

By Aqeela Sherrills, Southern California Outreach Coordinator, California Crime Victims for Alternatives to the Death Penalty


peggy p.
peggy p6 years ago

i am torn because of so many mess-ups trials and police investigations. i am so sorry any of you have had to go through this.

Nancy W.
Nancy W.6 years ago

Wow your story is all too real in my heart. You said just what I have been saying. In Dec. 1991 my brother was killed from a gun at 11 PM. Today we are left wonder what really happen. I got a call then just after people were at the door & I was on the scene shortly after.

I feel that when you speak you are speaking from my heart. I truly mean it when I say I feel your pain & hope that peace has come to your soul.

Barbara H.
.7 years ago

I am very sorry for your loss and pain. I realize nothing will bring your son back. I do believe a way to honor the too many victims we have in this country would be to reform our courts and criminal justice system. You are correct it takes far more money to have people on death row then life in prison. If we would take money saved by outlawing the death penalty and cutting our military spending we could make real change in lowering the crime rate in our country in so many ways. From finding the criminals to prevention to safer communities, job training. I could write a thesis on it but there is no space here. We need to work as an equal team in this country that actually cares about it's fellow citizens and we could change so many things.

Philippa P.
Philippa P7 years ago


Beverly G.
John Bilsborough7 years ago

Jan P. I am so sad for you. I agree the Death Sentence needs to come back in full force. Make these rotten animals pay for what they do. There are way to many of them. Murder of the innocent means nothing in the court rooms.

Amber K.
AB K7 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Ellinor S.
Ellinor S7 years ago


Diana S.
Diana S.7 years ago

Wow this is hilarious.Commute those on death row to lifetime imprisonment and this is supposed to save money?Hello,then you have to pay the expense of housing criminals longer and the taxpayers eating the cost of it.The problem is that when these people are on death row they get too many appeals and it drags out for years.Do these murders pay the same consideration to their victims before they murder them?The criminals have more rights than the victim and that is where the problem lies.The problem is your cops that don't want to do their jobs not the lack of cops as well as the crooked lawyers,and judicial system itself.I suggest the author of this article actually thinks about what it is they are writing before writing it because the comments made really make the author look incompetent.Please tell me how housing criminals permanently as opposed to swiftly executing them frees up funds.

Maria M.
Maria M7 years ago

Janet P I truly feel for you. I agree a fast trial, conviction and execution is the way to go. Stop wasting our money feeding and housing these animals. In cases of undeniable guilt I'm all for the death penalty hell I would pull the switch my self if given the chance.

Cheryl Ward
Cheryl W7 years ago

Jan P., my heart goes out to you & I agree with you 100%. It's time to stop sniveling over these monsters & worrying about rehabilitating them or their so called rights. Intentionally taking a life should be punishable by death. There are some crimes you should get NO SECOND CHANCES for. We all know it is against the law to take a life so if you make that choice, there should be extreme consequences. If the sentence was carried out effectively & immediately (again, in cases of undeniable guilt) then they would not be a burden on society.