Slayings have increased since a 2009 dip in annual tally
By TIM CHITWOOD
The countdown to 2015 for Columbus homicide stats is a count up -- counting up to see whether the city finishes the year without topping the 22 slayings it had in 2013.
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As of Friday, it broke even: Columbus had 22 homicides, the same as last year.
But a lot can happen in a week, or three days, or just one.
Take the bloodbaths of August: In one three-day span, Columbus had four homicides, three on one day, two a mother and son allegedly slain by the child's father. That same day -- Thursday, Aug. 21 -- a 16-year-old was fatally shot at Winston Road and Head Street, an area now known for violence.
On Aug. 23, a 47-year-old man was fatally shot outside a Buena Vista Road nightspot.
Two weeks earlier, the city recorded three homicides in a week, though one started with a shooting July 31, the man dying of his wounds Aug. 2.
On Aug. 6, a 27-year-old man died after being hit in a barrage of gunfire the night before at Cross Keys Apartments on Baker Plaza Drive.
On Aug. 8, a 20-year-old died in a Gleason Avenue home after a hail of gunfire.
Seven of the city's 2014 slayings happened in Au
gust. Of those, all but the mother and child were public shootings.
Such shootings were a notable trend in 2013, when gunfire in public settings wounded or killed bystanders. This year, 15 slayings were related to gunfire in parking lots or out on the street.
The first this year was Troy Saunders, 29, a Phenix City man who died in his Buick Jan. 24 on Columbus' Gentian Boulevard, having fled from the parking lot of the 2935 Warm Springs Road Super 8 Motel, where three people tried to rob him at 12:38 a.m., police said.
One day later, 47-year-old Marvine Bailey fatally was wounded in a drive-by shooting on Forysth Street.
Two of the year's public shootings were outside gas stations, two outside nightclubs, three outside apartment buildings, four out on the street.
At least one of Columbus' public shootings involved family violence, an estranged husband and wife.
On Feb. 21, Lyle Charles gunned down his 44-year-old wife, Tonya Moses Charles, in the back parking lot of the Muscogee County Department of Family and Children Services office in downtown Columbus. Then he left the scene.
It triggered a panic. With an armed man on the loose, schools went on lockdown. Police launched a manhunt.
In a Phenix City school the couple's children attended, students hid in closets, one boy texting his mother what he thought might be his last message.
Lyle Charles was found in his car off Fortson Business Park Boulevard, dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
At least six of 2014's Columbus homicides involved family violence, though none of the others spawned the fear the Charles' case did.
On Feb. 15, Niketa Garnette Brooks allegedly stabbed to death 38-year-old Tyree Jevontae Burtin during a domestic dispute at a Cusseta Road apartment.
On March 24, 23-month-old Ki'Ja Bassett died from injuries consistent with child abuse. Her mother's boyfriend, Damian Belle, is charged with murder and first-degree cruelty to children.
On June 17, Jessica Osborne, 28, fatally was shot outside her home on Forrest Road. Her boyfriend, Vashon Walker, is charged in her death.
Then came the horrific homicides of Rosella "Rose" Mitchell, 32, and her 6-month-old son, Dylan Conner. Burned beyond recognition, their bodies were found face down in a bedroom of their Winifred Lane home just after midnight Aug. 21. An autopsy showed the woman was stabbed repeatedly in her neck and torso, and the infant also died from traumatic injury before the fire was set.
Police later found Mitchell's boyfriend and Dylan's father, Brandon Conner, sitting in his car at Wynnton Road and Cedar Avenue. He was sweating and bloody and investigators found a long, serrated knife in the car along with more bloodstained clothing, police said. He faces two counts of murder.
As Columbus ends 2014 waiting to see if it will only tie, and not exceed, the number of homicides it had the year before, it faces what appears to be a recent uptick in killings over the past few years.
The year 2008 was the last to show a significant spike: Columbus had 30 homicides then.
According to police statistics, the numbers since have run like this: 13 in 2009; 17 in 2010; 16 in 2011, though two later were adjudicated as cases of involuntary manslaughter; and 18 in 2012, before last year's 22.