Thursday, September 11, 2008
Wife Questions Transients; Police Have 'Tough Year' Solving Cases
By T.J. Wilham
Journal Staff Writer
Once a week, Nancy Dewees drives down a small alley off Central, stops any homeless man she sees and asks if he knows who killed her husband.
She says it's the only thing she can do to stay sane. Dewees doesn't have a job, and her house is relatively quiet since her husband, Arthur, was shot and killed one month ago today while working at Sonic on Central near San Mateo.
His case is one of 13 homicides that have stumped police this year. City and county law enforcement have solved 62 percent of their cases so far, compared to an 80 percent solve rate for most years.
MARLA BROSE/JOURNAL Nancy Dewees says she has no idea why anyone would want to kill her husband. Arthur Dewees was shot last month during the middle of the day while working at Sonic restaurant.
MAP: Homicides in Albuquerque this year BLOG: Light And Sirens discussing crime in ABQ
Police say Arthur Dewees, 52, was taking out the trash in the middle of the day when someone shot him in the chest. He was found outside Sonic near a trash bin.
No suspects. No witnesses. No motive. No leads. All police know is that Arthur Dewees was a "true innocent victim" who was earning $9.25 an hour working at a fast-food restaurant.
Not far from the Dumpster is an alley frequented by transients. Nancy Dewees is convinced one of them knows something. So, she drives there, talks to homeless people, then tells police what she finds out.
"I want to know why. Why did they (do) this?" she said. "Someone came up and shot him, and shot him point blank.
"Right now, I don't have any faith because there are so many unsolved homicides."
There have been 34 homicides this year. While that's a lower number than in recent years, the percentage of unsolved cases is higher.
"We are having a difficult year," said Sgt. Carlos Argueta, the city's top homicide cop. "On about half of our cases, we need just that one person to come forward and give us that crucial piece of evidence or information that will bring a lot of closure to families out there waiting on us to solve these cases."
Of the unsolved cases, several have gone "cold," a term police use when an investigation has come to a standstill.
Argueta said they have not given that classification to the Dewees case because detectives are still actively trying to generate leads.
Cases that have gone cold include:
n The Jan. 23 death of Mitchell Reynolds. Reynolds, 50, hadn't shown up for work in several days, prompting his employer to call police. When police arrived at Reynolds' home for a welfare check, they discovered his body inside, with trauma to his upper torso.
n The Feb. 18 death of Odin Berry, who was shot following an argument in the 400 block of Vassar NE. Witnesses told police a red truck was seen leaving the area after the shooting.
n The March 7 death of Larry Chavez, 21, who was found shot in his gold Jaguar near Carlisle and Interstate 40.
On the other unsolved cases, Argueta said detectives "have a pretty good idea" of what happened and what the motive was. They just need a few more pieces of evidence to make an arrest.
In the weeks to come, detectives intend to make public pleas and profile some of the cases through Crime Stoppers with hopes of generating leads.
Dewees is trying to generate her own leads. She's organizing a fundraiser to raise money for a larger reward than the $1,000 being offered by Crime Stoppers.
She's also working on a wooden cross she plans to put at the Sonic in memory of her husband.
It's been a month, and she says she knows very little.
Mostly, she is puzzled why anyone would want to kill her husband.
"Maybe he saw something he shouldn't," she said. "Maybe it was gang initiation. I don't know, and it is killing me."
Arthur Dewees didn't drink, had never been arrested and was very mild-mannered, she said. The two got married more than 20 years ago and lived in a small Sandia foothills home with three cats. Nancy Dewees got laid off from her job at Intel more than a year ago, and her husband was working to support both of them.
"I want to find my husband's killer one way or the other," Nancy Dewees said. "If the police can't do it, hopefully I can."