RPD launches site for cold cases
The Rochester Police Department on Thursday launched a website that will eventually list the department’s 554 unsolved homicides dating back to 1969 in a bid to close unsolved cases.
The website, RochesterNYunsolved.com, has a searchable database of victims, with brief descriptions of where, when and how they died, as well as links to relevant news articles about the victims.
About 100 cases were available on the site when it launched, and more will be added over time.
In announcing the initiative, Acting Police Chief Cynthia Herriott-Sullivan said the goal was to end families who have lost loved ones to violence. She attributed the idea for the site to members of the local violence prevention group Roc the Peace. The group’s founder, Sirena Cotton, lost her son Christopher Jones in a still unsolved shootout in 2007.
âWe thought about it together and decided to get things done,â Herriott-Sullivan said. “When we left this meeting, I remember telling Sirena Cotton that we were going to do it if I had to pay myself.”
Captain Frank Umbrino clarified that unsolved cases are not defined by the date the crime took place, but by those in which all available leads have been exhausted without arrest or subsequent prosecution.
“It’s frustrating because although in the vast majority of cases we can find out who did it, being able to prove it in front of a jury is an extremely difficult task,” said Umbrino.
The most recent case in the database is that of Jordan Coleman, a 16-year-old who was shot and killed on Clifford Avenue in March. The oldest is Jose Bas, who was gunned down while working in his convenience store on Conkey Avenue in November 1972.
Bas’s granddaughter, Arleen Hyland, said she and her mother, Milda Bas, are still looking for answers.
âWe’re not giving up, we want this problem fixed, and it’s up to the community to call in and give advice, whatever you can provide to resolve this case,â Hyland said. âIt still hurts. We need closure.
Genora Wilder is also looking for a closure. Her son, Jason Wilder, was beaten to death on Clinton Avenue in 2019 after she said he was wrongly supposed to be part of an altercation taking place on the street. He leaves behind a daughter who is now 13 years old.
âSomeone knows something,â Wilder said. âIt was July, a beautiful summer night in a corner where there is a store and a hairdressing salon. I was told that there were 20 to 30 people that night in that corner watching this altercation.
Rochester has seen 2,197 homicides since 1969, according to police, and Umbrino said about a quarter of them remain unsolved. This clearance rate of about 75% is higher than the national average, which the FBI set at 62% in 2018.
While the purpose of the site is to solicit advice from the community, it also serves as a tool to keep hope alive. The site offers a family forum that allows relatives of the deceased to offer information about their loved ones and connect with people who are also facing a loss.
Pastor Sherita Traywick, founder of the community outreach group Young and Gifted Global Ministries, has previously partnered with Roc the Peace on what is known as the âcold case walkâ. These walks include prayer at the site of a murder and provide an opportunity for parents or other family members to talk about their loved one.
âAfter that we walk around the community with flyers and we just ask people if you know anything, do you know this case? Said Traywick. ââ¦ We are not going to bring the children back, but we are going to keep their memory alive, and we need the community to speak out. We need the community to know that even though it’s been 13 years, we haven’t forgotten DaMarri (Shaw), we haven’t forgotten Brent (Coley), we haven’t forgotten Jason (Wilder).
Gino Fanelli is a CITY staff writer. He can be reached at (585) 775-9692 or [email protected]