- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 2, 2014

D.C. police in January recorded among the highest monthly total of homicides seen in the city in recent years, with the number of killings exceeded in only two other months since 2011.

Police said 14 killings were recorded last month, trailing only the 15 homicides seen in July and the 23 homicides in September — a total inflated by a mass shooting at the Washington Navy Yard that claimed 12 victims.

The figure is well ahead of the pace set to open the last three years, when five killings were recorded in January 2013, six were seen in January 2012 and nine occurred in January 2011.

And while it’s nowhere near that of decades past — when the number of slayings approached 500 in a single year and the District was routinely referred to as the “murder capital” of the United States — it stands out against a trend of generally declining homicide totals in the past decade that have seen the city’s annual number of killings drop to around 100 each year.

Prior to July, the last time the city saw 14 homicides in a single month was in August 2011. Before that, 14 killings were recorded three times in 2010 — a year that also saw 19 slayings in the month of June. Police reported 132 homicides in 2010, compared to 104 last year and a half-century low of 88 homicides in 2012.

But unusual circumstances around several of the crimes last month suggested the uptick might not constitute a trend.

Metropolitan Police Department officials note that January saw a high number of domestic-related homicides — slayings law enforcement officials often describe as difficult to prevent.

“At least four of our homicides are domestic-related,” said Lt. Anthony Haythe, of the police department’s homicide unit. “We have had four homicides that have actually been inside of apartments. Unfortunately, those are things that we can’t control.”

The first homicide of the new year involved Alphonso Cleveland, 52, who was arrested and charged with first-degree murder in the fatal stabbing of his wife, 51-year-old Claudia Hall. Court papers say the killing occurred after a dispute over an unpaid cable bill.

Police also charged 56-year-old Bradford Elliott with the fatal stabbing of his 88-year-old father, Leroi Elliott, and an attack on his mother at their Northwest home. But after his arrest, Bradford Elliott, who police said suffered from mental illness, was hospitalized and died of a heart attack.

Two other cases only recently ruled homicides involved children and stemmed from incidents that occurred last year.

One-month-old Hakeem Brown of Southeast was pronounced dead in September, but the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner last month ruled the death a homicide. Prosecutors said the boy’s mother, Tisheena Louis Brown, 31, administered a lethal dose of a prescription medication to treat nausea after the boy became “fussy.”

In a case that occurred in November, 21-year-old Lillian Alvarado of Northwest was accused in court papers of choking and dismembering her newborn son. The papers say the woman told investigators she wasn’t certain the child had been born alive, but an autopsy revealed the boy was alive and the death was ruled a homicide last month. Ms. Alvarado was charged with first-degree murder.

Of the 14 homicides last month, police made arrests in five of the cases.

The only non-domestic case in which an arrest has been made was in the slaying of Vincent Purvis, 20, who was shot during a drive-by shooting in Southeast. Police found a rental car with shot-out windows that they traced to the crime scene and arrested the man who had rented the vehicle, Robert Osborne.

Mr. Osborne, 41, who is paralyzed from the waist down, denied any involvement in the shooting when interviewed by police, who used his cellphone to place him at the scene of the crime, according to court records.

Five of the killings last month involved men between the ages of 18-48 who were fatally shot. The month also saw two double homicides in which police say in each case a man and a woman were found dead inside a residence.

Police have not made an arrest in a double killing reported Jan. 20 in the 700 block of Girard Street Northwest. Oluremi Thomas, 36, of Northwest and Keyonna Proctor, 24, of Southeast were found fatally shot inside a home near Howard University.

The final two homicides of the month were the slayings of two 21-year-olds found fatally shot inside a Southeast D.C. apartment last week. The victims, found Thursday, were identified as Ervin Phillip Ingraham and Ronnetta Hurley-Brown. They were discovered inside the apartment they shared in the 1600 block of 17th Street in Southeast.

Also found inside along with the bodies were two infant children, who were unharmed and have since been turned over to D.C. Child Protective Services.

Police said the victims were “probably targeted.”

“We don’t believe it was random,” Lt. Haythe said, declining to elaborate further.

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