The Denver Police Department maintains a web page devoted to cold-case homicides — slayings in the Mile High City that have remained unsolved for years or even decades.
The address includes information about literally hundreds of murders starting in 1970, for which seventeen cases still linger, to 2015, marked by fifteen. And the latter, highlighted below, share some major characteristics.
Most of the 2015 victims are young; eleven who lost their lives were age 36 or less. They tend to be male; just two women are included in the year's total. And all but one is a person of color. Perhaps coincidentally, that individual, 78-year-old Judith Katchen, was the only member of this tragic group to be spotlighted in a DPD cold-case video. The clip about her is shared here, too.
One other bizarre coincidence: In 2015, two men named Abdul Muhammad were murdered in Denver — and neither of these separate incidents has resulted in criminal charges to date.
Unfortunately, it's far from uncommon for Denver homicides to go unsolved. Last June, using data complied for an impressive Washington Post project, we estimated that there had been no arrests in more than half of 312 homicides in Denver between January 1, 2010 and the end of February 2017. And this past November, we revealed that 22 of 58 Denver homicides in 2017 remained unsolved.
The latter figures come from Colorado Crime Statistics, an indispensable website maintained by the Colorado Department of Public Safety. The site shows that of 53 homicides in Denver during 2015, the Denver Police Department achieved a clearance rate of 64 percent.
About the latter term, Colorado Bureau of Investigation spokesperson Susan Medina told us last year that "'cleared,' in most cases, means one or more arrests were made. However, there are exceptions where an incident has reached a conclusion from the law enforcement perspective. An incident is also cleared if the offender is found but not arrested. These are called 'exceptional clearances.' Exceptional clearance occurs when the offender is a juvenile released to the parents, or if the offender is found to be deceased or if the offender is found to be in the custody of another jurisdiction. Also, an exceptional clearance may occur if the case cannot proceed by either prosecution declining the case or the victim refusing to cooperate. Then the incident is counted as cleared."
In every case, though, "'cleared' means law enforcement has found the perpetrator of the crimes which occurred in the reported incident," Medina stressed.
That's not true for any of the following fifteen homicides, all of which were covered by Westword; click the links embedded in each name to see our original coverage. They range from Rachel Boytes, a hip-hop performer and subject of a Westword cover story, to Jorge Lopez-Ramirez, whose murder received almost no press attention until we published a post asking if the lack of coverage had anything to do with him being a Latino teenager.
Last October, DPD spokesperson Sonny Jackson stressed that all homicides are equal in the eyes of investigators in the context of questions about the murder of Andrew Lowate, another victim whose death had been largely ignored by the media. This theme is also emphasized on the aforementioned website, whose introduction reads in part: "The Denver Police Cold Case Unit proactively combines advances in DNA technology and traditional investigative techniques to solve cold case homicides and sexual assault cases. The Cold Case Unit's motto WE WILL NEVER FORGET is a daily reminder to pursue justice for victims and their families long thought forgotten."
If you have information about any of these cases, you're encouraged to contact the Denver Police Department at 720-913-2000 or the Metro Denver Crimestoppers tip line at 720-913-STOP (7867). Callers may remain anonymous and could be eligible to receive up to $2,000.
VICTIM: Daerius Churchill
DATE: January 4, 2015
LOCATION: Bruce Randolph Avenue and North Steele Street
On January 4, 2015, at approximately 4:30 p.m. officers responded to the area of East Bruce Randolph Avenue and North Steele Street on a report of shots fired. Upon arrival victim Daerius Churchill was found suffering from multiple gunshot wounds. He was transported to a nearby hospital where he later died from his injuries.
VICTIM: Abdul Muhammad
DATE: January 16, 2015
LOCATION 500 block East Colfax Avenue
On January 16, 2015, Abdul Muhammad was stabbed in the 500 block of East Colfax Avenue during a verbal altercation with multiple unknown parties. He was transported to a nearby hospital where he later died from his injuries.
VICTIM: Jeffrey Starks
DATE: March 15, 2015
LOCATION 3200 block North Pontiac Street
On March 15, 2015, at approximately 9:00 p.m. officers responded to a shooting the 3200 block of North Pontiac Street. Upon arrival officers found Jeffrey Starks suffering from gunshot wounds. He was transported to a nearby hospital where he later died from his injuries.
VICTIM: Rachel Aboytes
DATE: March 24, 2015
LOCATION: East 16th Avenue and North Valentia Street
On March 24, 2015, at approximately 8:40 p.m. officers responded to the area of East 16th Avenue and North Valentia Street on a report of shots heard. Upon arrival officers located victim Rachel Aboytes suffering from multiple gunshot wounds. She was transported to a nearby hospital where she later died from her injuries.
VICTIM: Abdul Muhammad
DATE: April 11, 2015
LOCATION: 1600 block East Bruce Randolph Ave
On April 11, 2015, Abdul Muhammad was found shot outside his residence in the 1600 block of East Bruce Randolph Avenue. The victim later died at a nearby hospital as a result of his injuries.
VICTIM: Dominique Perez
DATE: April 28, 2015
LOCATION: 1700 block East 35th Ave
On April 28, 2015, officers responded to the 1700 block of East 35th Avenue on a shooting involving multiple victims. Dominique Perez was transported to a nearby hospital where he later died from his injuries.
VICTIM: Armando Uribe-Rodriguez
DATE: May 3, 2015
LOCATION: 3900 block West Kentucky Ave
On May 3, 2015, at approximately 2:00 a.m. Armando Uribe-Rodriguez was intentionally struck by a passing motor vehicle as he was walking in the 3900 block of West Kentucky Avenue. The subsequent investigation determined he had been involved in a verbal dispute with unknown persons shortly before the incident.
VICTIM: Harry McCabe
DATE: July 1, 2015
LOCATION: West Asbury Ave and South Tejon St
On July 1, 2015, Harry McCabe was at a park near West Asbury Avenue and South Tejon Street when he was shot by an unknown suspect from a passing vehicle. He was transported to a nearby hospital where he died the following day from his injuries.
VICTIM: Carlos Ruiz-Reyes
DATE: July 19, 2015
LOCATION: 000 block North Stuart St
On July 19, 2015, at approximately 2 a.m. officers responded to the 000 block of North Stuart Street on a reported shooting with multiple victims. Victim Carlos Ruiz-Reyes was transported to a nearby hospital where he later died from his injuries.
VICTIM: Eric Walker
DATE: July 29, 2015
LOCATION: East MLK Blvd and North Clayton St
On July 29, 2015, Eric Walker was waiting at a bus stop near East Martin Luther King Boulevard and North Clayton Street when an unknown person approached him on foot and shot him multiple times. He was transported to a nearby hospital where he later died from his injuries.
VICTIM: Jorge Lopez-Ramirez
DATE: July 31, 2015
LOCATION: 1320 South Federal Blvd
On July 31, 2015, at approximately 8:10 p.m. Jorge Lopez-Ramirez was shot and killed in the parking lot of the Lowe’s Mercado grocery store located at 1320 South Federal Boulevard.
VICTIM: Derrick Wilford
DATE: August 12, 2015
LOCATION: 22nd and Stout St
On August 12, 2015, officers responded to the area of 22nd and Stout Street on a reported shooting and located Derrick Wilford suffering from multiple gunshot wounds. He was transported to a nearby hospital where he died a few hours later from his injuries.
VICTIM: Jose Frias-Olivas
DATE: August 15, 2015
LOCATION: West Vassar Avenue and South Federal Boulevard
On August 15, 2015, at approximately 10 a.m. Jose Frias-Olivas was found shot to death in Harvard Gulch Park, located near the intersections of West Vassar Avenue and South Federal Boulevard.
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VICTIM Judith Katchen
DATE: August 18, 2015
LOCATION: 2500 block South Dennison Court
In the late evening hours of August 18, 2015, officers conducted a welfare check at Judith Katchen’s southeast Denver residence after her family notified police they had been unable to reach her. Upon arrival officers discovered Ms. Katchen deceased inside her residence. The subsequent investigation determined the cause of her death to be criminal in nature.
VICTIM: Dareon Tarbor
DATE: October 10, 2015
LOCATION: 11100 East Dartmouth Ave
On October 10, 2015, at approximately 4:30 p.m. Dareon Tarbor was found shot to death outside an apartment building at 11100 East Dartmouth Avenue.