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Published: 1/1/2013

GUN VIOLENCE

Metro area records 53 homicides during 2012, up from 48 in 2011

BY TAYLOR DUNGJEN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
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After Fannie Mae Smith was killed — shot three times while watching television in her central Toledo home on Jan. 3, 2012 — a small group of fed-up residents marched in solidarity, hoping that the death of an 81-year-old woman would become a catalyst for change.

People in the city asked what it would take for the violence to end.

There were community meetings, prayers, and plans to try to stop the killings. But they didn’t stop.

RELATED CONTENT: 2012 Homicide Report

RELATED ARTICLE: Man killed in West Toledo

On Monday, a man was shot and killed in West Toledo. Brian Minley, 24, was found Monday afternoon inside a house at 1241 Berdan Ave. near Willys Parkway, where he was shot at least once, Toledo police said.

He was pronounced dead at 3:15 p.m. at Toledo Hospital.

Family members of other victims have asked people to put down their guns and find another way to solve their problems.

The killings were not just inside Toledo’s city limits, but in small communities that are often thought to be untouchable.

By the year’s end, 39 people in Toledo had been killed, and 14 more had died in the metropolitan area and southeast Michigan. In 2011, 38 homicides, two police-involved, were recorded in the city of Toledo, and 10 more in the metro area.

The Toledo Police Department, by no surprise, handled most of the case work of 37 homicides in 2012.

In Toledo, but not on the city’s books, are the deaths of Brad Hamlin, an inmate at the Toledo Correctional Institute, and Josiah Galat, a University of Toledo student.

Those deaths are being investigated by the State Highway Patrol and the University of Toledo Police Department, respectively.

No charges have been filed in either case.

When the department reports its crime statistics to the FBI, it will report 36 homicides, not including that of Travis Johnson, 21, who was killed by an off-duty Walbridge police officer on June 23.

Johnson allegedly was attempting to rob the officer, Matthew Morland, and the officer’s friend. The shooting was ruled justifiable.

Also not included in the city’s year-end tally is a police-involved shooting that killed Darrell Parnell.

Toledo police Sgt. Joe Heffernan said the case has not been forwarded to a Lucas County grand jury; the department’s firearms review board will meet sometime in the new year.

“Domestic-related homicides is the drive force of homicides in 2012,” said Toledo police Chief Derrick Diggs in an interview Monday afternoon, while detectives were on the scene of the department’s 37th homicide, in West Toledo.

Drug-related homicides and then gang-related homicides followed, the chief said. In 2011, gang-related incidents were the main cause of homicides in the city.

But Toledo wasn’t the only place experiencing domestic-related deaths. They also occurred in Perrysburg Township, Lake Township, and Blissfield, Mich.

“We know there have been more fatalities, more domestic violence, this year than the last many years,” said Lynn Jacquot, director of the YWCA’s Battered Women’s Shelter. “It’s enough for us to say, ‘Enough.’ This is enough.”

Around the region, 13 people — not counting children — were killed in domestic-related situations. In most of those cases, the suspect had never faced prior domestic violence charges.

People who work with domestic violence victims never knew most of the victims until it was too late.

Of the 13 victims, three were men: Jeffrey Fitzpatrick, 50; Raymond Darden, 81, and John Kutsch, 58. The other 10 victims were women, allegedly killed by either a boyfriend or a husband.

Although the relationship between the victim and perpetrator is important, Mrs. Jacquot said people have to stop analyzing domestic violence as an interpersonal relationship problem instead of a community issue.

Blissfield hadn’t had a homicide in 40 years.

But on July 13, Amy Merrill, 34, and her sister Lisa Gritzmaker, 24, were shot dead, and their mother was wounded by Thomas Jack Fritz, 38, the father of Ms. Merrill’s youngest child.

Months before she was killed, Ms. Merrill knew she wanted out of her relationship with Fritz, said her father, Terry Roop.

Weeks before the shooting, she kicked Fritz out of her home. Two hours before that, she spoke with her father.

“She told me, ‘Dad, everything is going perfect, and I couldn’t get any happier,’ ” Mr. Roop recalled. “An hour later, he got in the house; an hour after that he killed her. … I miss her so much.”

Months later in northwest Ohio, Amber Jones picked up her son Jorge Duran III, 3, from her mother’s home about 8:30 p.m. Oct. 16.

It was about that time when Jorge Duran, Jr., 24, was at a local Bass Pro Shop to buy a 22-caliber semiautomatic handgun.

Less than an hour later, the first 911 calls were coming in. Ms. Jones, 26, was dead in her Lake Pointe Drive apartment; her son was also killed. Three others were wounded.

The shooter, Mr. Duran, Ms. Jones’ ex-boyfriend, was killed by Lake Township police.

“Amber … was my only daughter. She’s my best friend,” said Cynthia Betz, Ms. Jones’ mother. “My life was taken too; they’re both my life.”

Carol Inman was grocery shopping when she heard that her granddaughter Katie Sheppard, 29, had been found dead, strangled allegedly by her husband, Kyle Sheppard, 29.

The family is still mourning but is channeling their grief into organizing a benefit to help pay for funeral expenses and to raise money for the Battered Women’s Shelter, Mrs. Inman said.

“We’re just hoping we can help just one person,” Mrs. Inman said. “It would help take a little bit of the hurt off of our hearts.”

Coming on Wednesday: More children were killed in the Toledo area in 2012 than in any year since 1995.

Contact Taylor Dungjen at: tdungjen@theblade.com or 419-724-6054, or on Twitter @taylordungjen.



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