Speak up, police urge witnesses

On TV, murder witnesses are typically tight-lipped. But in real life when witnesses stay quiet, murders stay unresolved, say HRM homicide investigators.

On TV, murder witnesses are typically tight-lipped. But in real life when witnesses stay quiet, murders stay unresolved, say HRM homicide investigators.

“I think it’s more expected now to not speak to police than it was years ago,” said Staff Sgt. Richard Lane, head of HRM’s integrated major crime unit, in an interview with Metro Thursday. “They watch a lot of TV and they learn stuff from American television about what happens if you talk to police.”

Perpetrators feed off that fear and use it to intimidate witnesses, he added.

“But think of what it does for your community when you don’t tell (police) — look at the fear in the average law-abiding citizen who lives here.”

There have been nine murders in HRM in 2010, the last two occurring within a week of each other. A masked gunman shot Donald Jermaine Stevenson, 21, in his Mulgrave Park house Oct. 16. Then, on Oct. 23, Donald Chad Smith, 27, was killed while delivering a pizza in Highfield Park. No arrests have been made in either case.

Homicide investigations are about putting puzzles together and when police don’t have witness reports, they’re left to rely on forensic evidence to solve a case, said Staff Sgt. Tony Reeves, a former homicide detective. “Sometimes you have the smoking gun, it’s on video and it’s pretty easy ... but there’s some that you don’t get witnesses coming forward and those are the ones you really have to dig in for,” he said.