The Charleston area saw a slight increase in homicides in the past year, and a number of killings remained unsolved as the clock ran out on 2010.
After a bloody start in 2000, most communities in the metro area saw violent crime markedly decline over the past couple of years. Recent FBI data from the first six months of this year showed promise for that trend continuing. The year will end, however, with a slight rise in Lowcountry killings. In all, 51 people were slain in Charleston, Berkeley, Colleton and Dorchester counties in 2010, two more than in the previous year, according to preliminary numbers from coroners and law enforcement.
The victims ranged from a suburban infant to a 67-year-old Vietnam War veteran. The causes ran the gamut from drug-related violence to street confrontations and domestic arguments that spiraled out of control.
Among the victims was a 9-month-old Mount Pleasant boy who starved to death in June, authorities said. A 27-year-old mother of twin boys also was among the fallen, stabbed to death and dumped on a Charleston County road in August. Also killed was a 36-year-old Summerville woman gunned down in the parking lot of a family restaurant, allegedly by her husband.
Although those three cases netted arrests, other slayings remain unsolved. North Charleston police are still looking for suspects in five of their 10 killings. Four of the 10 killings in the city of Charleston remain unsolved. Charleston County sheriff's deputies have had 10 killings as well, with two open homicides.
The May 19 killing of 31-year-old Angelo President is among the open North Charleston cases. President, a father of five, was shot in the abdomen while walking on Riverview Avenue. He stumbled back home and collapsed.
His family has offered a $5,000 reward for information on his killing, and a billboard has been erected near Spruill Avenue in hopes of garnering tips for Crime Stoppers. An arrest, however, has remained elusive.
"Not knowing what happened is probably the hardest part," said his mother, Tessie President Bush. "Webster doesn't have words to describe how difficult it is. It's so sad. We are losing a lot of young men to street violence unnecessarily."
Other unsolved cases include the May 22 killing of 44-year-old Andrew Clavadetscher, who was assaulted by multiple attackers outside a Remount Road strip club, and the Sept. 2 slaying of Jhovan Hamilton, 22, who was shot to death at a Dorchester Road apartment complex during a possible home invasion. There are also the unsolved killings of Isaac James
Washington-Dais, 21, found shot inside a car on O'Hear Avenue on Dec. 4, and Wednesday's slaying of Marcques Armstrong, 19, who was found dead at St. Charles Place apartments.
North Charleston Police Chief Jon Zumalt said investigators are working hard to solve the killings and he remains hopeful. He noted that his department has solved an average of 80 percent of the city's killings over the past 16 years. People in the community remain cooperative and tips are coming in, but investigators need more to make arrests, he said. Overall, the city had one less killing than in 2009.
"We's just had some this year that have been tougher to get enough evidence on to close," Zumalt said. "But we are still working them, and I am hopeful they will be solved."
The city of Charleston had one more killing than in the previous year. Four remain unsolved. Luther Taylor, 29, was shot in the head on America Street on April 20. Darron Heyward, 36, was shot multiple times at Nassau and Wolfe streets on Aug. 22. Travis Anderson, 20, was fatally shot on Norman Street on Aug. 28. Former Green Beret John Jenkins, 67, was gunned down in front of St. John's Episcopal Church on Hanover Street on Sept. 21.
Half of Charleston's killings came in a 30-day period in August and September. The spike prompted Charleston Police Chief Greg Mullen to ramp up police presence in violence-prone areas, which seemed to calm tensions.
The Charleston County Sheriff's Office had three more killings than it had in 2009. One unsolved case is the killing of Chad Brown, 17, who was shot to death Oct. 23 while on the dance floor at a private party at Pythian Castle Hall on Belgrade Avenue in West Ashley. The other is Rasha Porter, 27, who was shot by an intruder at his Ravenel mobile home on Nov. 15.
Sheriff's Maj. John Clark said Brown's killing is particularly puzzling as it occurred in view of more than 100 people but yielded no witnesses who could name the gunman. "It's got us baffled," he said.
Bush, whose son died in North Charleston, said people need to come forward and help police solve these crimes. If not, the person who killed her son could someday leave another family grief-stricken, she said.
"I do not know who would have wanted to hurt him," she said. "But I do know we have a killer walking around among people every day who is capable of doing the same thing to someone else."
Reach Glenn Smith at 937-5556.