Chief eyes unsolved murders

YOUNGSTOWN – Like most people at the beginning of a new year, police Chief Rod Foley looks over some things he needs to wrap up from the previous year.

For Foley and Chief of Detectives Capt. Mark Milstead, those are the 16 unsolved murders the city had last year out of a total of 26 homicides.

This week, Milstead has been meeting with the detectives assigned to the cases and said common threads are gangs and drug trade. Several of the killings were also in retaliation for previous homicides.

”In most of these cases, we have a likely suspect but we can’t get a witness to come forward with the information we believe they have,” Milstead said.

Foley said most people are afraid of retaliation if they cooperate with police, which tends to keep them quiet. He said a lot of times detectives get a big break when a witness in a homicide case is arrested on an unrelated crime and gives information for a better deal when they go to court.

”Generally, there’s a quid pro quo,” Foley said.

He said investigators are reinterviewing witnesses and also trying to find new leads.

Foley said a lot of the homicides are tied to past feuds or vendettas between gangs or loosely organized groups of people fighting among themselves.

Milstead said he meets every 30 days with detectives assigned to unsolved cases and they go over them to see if they can find anything new. He said a detective will work a case until all leads are exhausted, then they will go on to the next one.

Detectives average about seven homicides a year along with other cases, he said.

”We just can’t get people to come forward with the information they have,” Milstead said. ”Even some of our victims, they know who shot them, but they won’t tell us.”