Deputies have cleared half of their homicide investigations this year

Deputies have cleared half of their homicide investigations this year »Play Video

YAKIMA COUNTY, Wash.-- It's not the kind of batting average you'd like to see when it comes to solving deadly criminal cases. This year, Yakima County deputies have cleared half of the homicides it handled; a percentage they'd like to be higher along with everyone else.

Deputies have four open homicides this year alone. Their dependence on other facilities and the department's own tight staffing are some of the reasons.

"You could only imagine the echo you know, that the gunfire had," Desiree Sunford's mom Connie Kast said. 

Still, nobody knows who was behind that gunfire. Bullets that killed Connie Kast's daughter Desiree Sunford in April.

"I want the person responsible caught," she said. "Off the streets, put away forever."

That person hasn't been caught. KIMA pulled the numbers to see how successful Yakima County deputies are in solving homicides.

Of 27 homicides in Yakima County, they investigated eight this year. Four have been cleared and have suspects behind bars. In 2012, they investigated four of the 14 county homicides and cleared two of them. When Yakima County saw 22 homicides in 2011, deputies investigated eight. Four of those are still open.

"Do any of them look like random homicides that could put the public in danger?" KIMA asked Sgt. Mike Russell from the Yakima County Sheriff's Office.
"No," he responded. "I don't have, we don't have any information to suggest that those were random homicides."

Evidence from two homicide cases this year still need to be analyzed by the state crime lab. One is the Desiree Sunford case. The other is McKaylee Higgs. Investigators say her husband shot her and claimed it was an accident. 

"I wish I could tell you more, but I can't," Sgt. Russell said. "Don't lose hope"
"About McKaylee Higgs?" KIMA asked.
"yes," Russell responded. 

Besides the backlog at the crime lab, deputies say there are other reasons it takes a while to solve these cases. Tight staffing is a big one. The sheriff's office only has six detectives who handle homicides in addition to a caseload of other crimes as well.

Two other cases from this year remain open. Miguel Martinez is still wanted for the murder of Carmen Johnson earlier this month. Deputies say they have no leads in the other open case.