Sunday, May 10, 2020

Police departments failed to report nearly 3,000 homicides in 2018

America’s coroners and medical examiners reported nearly 3,000 more homicides in 2018 than were reported by law enforcement officials – the largest discrepancy on record.

A new study by the nonprofit Murder Accountability Project found significant lapses in police participation in the annual Uniform Crime Report (UCR), a voluntary reporting program administered by the FBI which local, state and federal policymakers rely upon as the official record for violent crimes in the United States.

Medical examiners in 2018 documented 2,953 more homicides than were reported by police to the UCR. These discrepancies also were unusually large in 2017 and 2016. During the 19-year period from 2000 through 2018, medical authorities reported 36,769 more homicides than were reported by police.

The UCR has been a voluntary program since its enactment by Congress in 1930. Physicians, however, generally are required by law to document all deaths and to report the causes of death to state authorities and, ultimately, to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which is headquartered in Atlanta.

Homicide reporting discrepancies vary enormously by state, MAP found. Mississippi leads the nation in reporting failures at 238 homicides in 2018, followed by Texas, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Ohio, California, Illinois, North Carolina and Tennessee. The study also found significant failures to report homicides of Native Americans, infants and the elderly.

To download a copy of this 5-page report, click here. To download an Excel spreadsheet of the data used in this study, including missing murder reports for all 50 states and 323 urban counties, click here.


Tuesday, February 18, 2020

MAP Vice Chairman and visionary FBI analyst Eric Witzig dies at 73

Eric Warren Witzig, a veteran District of Columbia homicide detective who went on to investigate major serial murder cases for the FBI, has died following a lengthy battle with liver cancer. At the time of his February 18 death, Witzig was vice chairman and a founding director of the nonprofit Murder Accountability Project. He was 73.

Eric W. Witzig
Witzig was a detective at Washington D.C.’s Metropolitan Police Department and also served as an agent in the office of the city's Chief Medical Examiner. Some of his major cases included the 1982 airliner crash of Air Florida’s Flight 90 into the frozen Potomac River and the 1981 attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan by John Hinckley Jr.

Upon his retirement with DC police after 20 years, Witzig joined the FBI’s Training Division where he worked in the Investigative Support Unit as a crime analyst and major case specialist.  He was an integral part of the Bureau’s Violent Criminal Apprehension Program (ViCAP).  He retired from the Bureau after 24 years as a unit chief and supervisory intelligence analyst assigned to a special criminal investigation project.

Witzig reviewed the crime scenes of Seattle's "Green River Killer" Gary Ridgway while working to build a national database of unsolved murders and sexual assaults for ViCAP.

Witzig solved the murder of 81-year-old Fannie Whitney Byers of Carl, Georgia, through a records review of the ViCAP database he helped create. Although Georgia officials had arrested and charged two persons for the murder, Witzig successfully linked the Byers homicide to Texas "Railroad Killer" Angel Maturino Resendiz, a serial killer believed responsible for 23 murders. Resendiz confessed to killing Byers and recounted precise details of her murder that only the killer could know.

"Eric Witzig was a visionary within America's law enforcement community. He validated through his remarkable career the importance of the creation of a national database for unsolved homicides and other major crimes," said MAP Chairman Thomas K. Hargrove. "Even while dying of cancer, Eric closely monitored the investigations into 51 unsolved strangulations of women in Chicago that he, and we, believe were the work of serial killers. Eric will be sorely missed."

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Chicago Police make first arrest among 51 female strangulations

Chicago Police have arrested Arthur Hilliard and charged him with the homicide of Diamond Turner, the first arrest to be made among a large cluster of 51 female strangulations on Chicago's South and West sides. The cluster was identified by a computer algorithm developed by the Murder Accountability Project.

Turner, 21, was found strangled, beaten and partially disrobed in a trash bin in the 7300 block of South Kenwood Avenue by city garbage collectors on March 3, 2017. Her case was similar in many key respects to those of the other 50 victims.

Hilliard, 52, is also under investigation for two other homicides, according to police. He was previously charged and convicted of the illegal concealment of the body of murder victim  Andra Williams, who was confined to a wheelchair. Williams' body was found with multiple stab wounds in a shopping cart in the alley behind his Westside apartment building.

Hilliard has a history of six misdemeanor assault or battery charges over a number of years, although none resulted in conviction.

Police said they arrested Hilliard after an Illinois state crime laboratory delivered DNA results that confirmed blood found in Hilliard's home belonged to Turner. Chicago Interim Police Superintendent Charlie Beck said, "As soon as DNA came back, the warrant was served" for Hilliard's arrest. However, Illinois officials said the most recent lab results in Turner's murder were delivered to Chicago Police in March of last year.

To download a copy of MAP's analysis of the Chicago strangulations requested last year by the Chicago City Council, click here. To see a map showing the victims' names, body-recovery locations and details of these crimes, click here. 

Thursday, August 15, 2019

MAP sues FBI (and others) for failure to report thousands of homicides

The nonprofit Murder Accountability Project (MAP) has filed a lawsuit against the Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Bureau of Indian Affairs and other federal law enforcement agencies for failing to obey a 31-year-old Congressional mandate that homicides and other major crimes must be reported to the Uniform Crime Report (UCR), the nation's official accounting of major crimes.

That federal law enforcement agencies have ignored the Uniform Federal Crime Reporting Act of 1988 became apparent when MAP determined earlier this year that half of Native American homicides committed from 1999 through 2017 were not reported to the UCR or to its related Supplementary Homicide Report (SHR). At least 2,400 Indian murders were not reported, MAP determined.

The FBI and the Bureau of Indian Affairs have jurisdiction to lead criminal investigations on many Indian reservations but failed to report either the occurrence of these crimes or whether they were cleared through the arrest of the offenders. The Army, Navy, Air Force and Department of Defense have also failed to report to the Justice Department many thousands of homicides and other major crimes for which they had jurisdiction.

The 1988 law requires all federal law enforcement agencies, including those within the Department of Defense, to report crime data including homicides to the Justice Department. The Act further requires that the Justice Department “shall report” these data to all “institutions participating in the Uniform Crime Reports program.” MAP relies upon the UCR and SHR to monitor homicides and makes these data available at this website.

"The American people have the right to know how they are being murdered and whether those murders are being solved," said MAP Chairman Thomas K. Hargrove. "We reluctantly are suing federal law enforcement agencies under the Freedom of Information Act to compel them to obey a Congressional reporting mandate."

To download a copy of MAP's 71-page federal complaint, click here.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Chicago detectives update status of strangulation investigations

Detectives for the Chicago Police Department report they have obtained DNA evidence from 18 of the 51 victims of unsolved female strangulations and asphyxiations in their city, or slightly more than one-third of a victim group that includes sex workers and women with histories of drug addition.

"All of the DNA has been reconciled" and no additional such evidence is expected, Deputy Chief Brendan Deenihan told a forum convened June 6 by U.S. Congressman Bobby Rush.

Two of the women had multiple DNA profiles recovered from their bodies, bringing the total number of profiles to 21. None of these profiles cross match each other or match available DNA profiles of identified criminals in the FBI's CODIS database.

Detectives, however, said they will continue to investigate this group of homicides.

"We've given these 51 cases to a team of homicide detectives from Chicago who are on an FBI Violent Crimes Task Force," said Chief of Detectives Melissa Staples. "They are reviewing every piece of evidence in every one of these cases. This is going to take some time."

For two years, the Murder Accountability Project has warned that too many strangulation and asphyxiation murders of women have gone unsolved, a pattern suggestive of serial murder. "It's highly unlikely these 50 women were murdered by 50 separate men," said MAP Chairman Thomas Hargrove.

To see a map showing the victim's names, body-recovery locations and details of these crimes, click here. To download a copy of MAP's seven-page analysis of the Chicago strangulations given to the Chicago City Council and Police Superintendent Eddie T. Johnson, click here.


Thursday, March 14, 2019

Half of Native American homicides not reported to FBI


Law enforcement agencies failed to notify the FBI about nearly half of homicides of American Indians and Alaskan Natives committed from 1999 to 2017, according to a study by the nonprofit Murder Accountability Project (MAP).

The study found Indian murders are the least likely of any racial group to be reported to the federal Supplementary Homicide Report (SHR) which is part of the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, the nation’s official accounting for major crimes. These records are valuable to local, state and federal authorities for identifying and responding to challenges facing law enforcement.

At least 2,406 Indian and Native murders have not been reported to federal authorities. This finding is based on MAP’s comparison of homicides reported by medical authorities to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and homicides reported by police to the Supplementary Homicide Report. 

MAP representatives met with U.S. Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Tara Sweeney and other Interior Department leaders on February 4 to discuss these reporting failures.  MAP’s study resulted from a request by Interior officials who also sought a briefing on the findings. Interior officials declined to comment publicly on the findings of this report.

The study found reporting of Indian murders has improved in recent years, especially since 2015 when several tribes like the Navajo Tribal Police began reporting homicides to the FBI for the first time. Reporting rates also vary by state, with the largest number of unreported homicides occurring in Arizona, New Mexico and Oklahoma. To download the eight-page MAP report on these reporting failures, click here.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Black murders accounted for all of America's clearance decline


Declining homicide clearance rates for African-American victims accounted for all of the nation’s alarming decline in law enforcement’s ability to clear murders through the arrest of criminal offenders, according to a new study of data compiled by the nonprofit Murder Accountability Project (MAP).

Reported clearance rates for the other three races counted in the Supplementary Homicide Report – whites (which includes ethnic Hispanics), Asians and Native Americans – actually improved slightly over the period from 1976 through 2017.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Criminal Justice Information Services Division in Clarksburg, West Virginia, has estimated the nation’s homicide clearance rate for many years and found up to 90 percent of murders were cleared through the arrest of offenders in the mid 1960s, a rate that steadily declined until reaching 61 percent in 2017. This decline in clearance rates has been widely observed for many years.

But the Murder Accountability Project's study found declining clearance rates exclusively occurred among homicides of black victims based upon offender-identification data found in the Supplementary Homicide Report (SHR) from 1976 through 2017. Clearance rates for all other races improved.


This racial divide occurred in every region of the nation and in most communities, regardless of size. Major urban centers, suburban neighborhoods, rural counties and tiny cities all generally experienced a large decline in the rate at which black homicides are solved through arrest.

Click here to download MAP's six-page report on this trend. The Murder Accountability Project's augmented SHR data, which includes more than 27,000 homicide cases not reported to the FBI, can be downloaded at no cost at the "Data & Docs" tab at this website.