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Published: Sunday, 8/3/2008

Toledo's unsolved killings weigh heavily

BY LAREN WEBER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Mary Abrell says she is praying for the man who shot and killed her 19-year-old son, Kenneth Kimble, Jr. 'I want God to help me through this and I want God to help him.' Mary Abrell says she is praying for the man who shot and killed her 19-year-old son, Kenneth Kimble, Jr. 'I want God to help me through this and I want God to help him.'
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In the weeks since Mary Abrell's oldest son was killed outside a church festival about a block from her East Toledo home, she has been praying for his killer.

She asked God to provide the person responsible for fatally shooting her 19-year-old son, Kenneth Kimble, Jr., with the courage to go to the police.

"I want God to help me through this and I want God to help him," she said. "It would be best for him to turn himself in. He would be at ease."

Mr. Kimble was shot once in the chest about 10:10 p.m. July 18 near the corner of White and Idaho streets after apparently fighting with another man outside the St. Thomas Aquinas Church Festival, police said. He died shortly after arriving at St. Charles Mercy Hospital.

The former Waite High School student who aspired to play professional basketball is among five homicide victims in Toledo this year whose killings remain unsolved.

The city has had 11 homicides so far this year - just two fewer than the total at the end of last year.

But all of last year's homicides were solved, which Toledo police Chief Mike Navarre said was unusual. The average clearance rate for homicides in cities comparable to Toledo is 60 percent, he said.

While Mr. Kimble's death was more recent, some of this year's homicides have been unsolved for months - frustrating both police and the victims' families.

It has been six months since firefighters discovered the body of Gordon Wright, 24, hidden in a third-floor attic in a central-city duplex at 1025 Marmion Ave. The structure had been set on fire.

Police determined his body had been there for a few days before the fire was set Feb. 13. Wright, who died from head injuries, was Toledo's first homicide victim this year.

Detective Bob Schroeder, the lead investigator in the Kimble and Wright slayings, said unsolved homicide cases aren't easily forgotten.

"It's not a case you just walk away from," he said. "The homicides, you carry around. You're driving home thinking about what you can do tomorrow or what's coming down the road or what you need or what you'd like to have."

The detective, who has been assigned to the investigative services bureau since 1997, said several challenges exist in homicide cases, such as getting witnesses to share information with police.

"No one wants to get involved or no one wants to stand up even though they know what is going on is wrong," he said, noting that's either because they are afraid or are apathetic.

Police estimate that at least 100 people witnessed the shooting of Mr. Kimble, yet few have come forward to identify the shooter.

A $5,000 reward was offered July 21 to anyone with information leading to the arrest of those responsible for the deaths of Mr. Kimble, David Babcock, 46, and Clyde Goetz, 53.

The three men were killed within a week of one another, but their deaths are not related, police said.

A suspect in Mr. Babcock's death since has been arrested.

Detective Schroeder said the reward money has generated some phone calls, but "there's a lot of guesses that come in from people trying to hit the lottery."

Ms. Abrell said she hopes the witnesses to her son's killing can put their fear behind them.

"They have to get over being afraid and tell police what they know," she said.

In addition to finding witnesses willing to talk, police also need strong evidence linking a person to the crime scene, Detective Schroeder said.

"What I know and what I can prove are two different things," he said.

Although no one has been charged in the death of Wright, Capt. Ray Carroll, head of the investigative services bureau, is confident the man responsible is serving prison time in another state for an unrelated crime.

"It's frustrating for [detectives] when they know who did it, when they talked to the guy who did it, but the evidence is not there," Captain Carroll said.

Also frustrating, the captain said, is when killers randomly target their victims.

"Some victims have known enemies. Some victims are involved in criminal activity. Other people are totally innocent victims," he said.

Captain Carroll cited the case of Mr. Babcock, who was riding his bicycle to work to save money on gas and was killed July 15 after an argument with a man in the 800 block of Western Avenue.

"There is nothing to indicate [Mr. Babcock] was involved in anything other than going to work," Captain Carroll said. "It's hard to try to find motivation for that."

A 19-year-old South Toledo man, Dounche Jones of 235 Western Ave., who lived just a few blocks from where the shooting occurred, was arrested July 24 in Mr. Babcock's death. He remains in the Lucas County jail.

For Detective Schroeder, there is nothing better than convicting a murderer.

"It's one of the best feelings in law enforcement, knowing you put somebody away for a long time for murder," he said.

Contact Laren Weber at:

lweber@theblade.com

or 419-724-6050.



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