After a year skewed by two triple-homicides and clusters of killings, Bibb County Sheriff David Davis has cause for optimism.
In 2014, 16 people died violent deaths in Bibb County, down from a combined 17 homicides investigated in 2013 by the sheriff’s office and the former Macon Police Department.
The decrease is even more apparent compared to the 23 total homicides in 2012.
“Except in extreme cases, I think people are learning that firearms are not the way to solve problems,” Davis said.
Guns still were the weapon of choice in most 2014 killings with bullet wounds being the cause of death in 12 of the 16 cases.
“We’re not seeing as many domestic homicides as we were seeing in the past,” Davis said.
Just three of last year’s cases stemmed from domestic disputes.
On Feb. 22, Bridgette Flowers was gunned down in her minivan in a rolling shooting that began on Trinity Place in Fort Hill and ended at her home at 537 Maynard St.
Her estranged husband, Jacento Flowers Sr. is accused of opening fire on her and wounding two others about a week after he allegedly cold-cocked her at the Wal-Mart on Gray Highway.
On June 9, Martegus J. Johnson, 24, was run over by a car near the post office at 1040 Pio Nono Aveue.
Tasha Yolanda Phillips, who was pregnant with Johnson’s child, was charged with murder.
Her attorney argued last month that her client was a battered woman who was terrified of Johnson.
On Dec. 3, the body of 27-year-old Shauntrice Michele Williams was found in the Taylor County landfill.
Her boyfriend, Ali Lamont Tanner, 39, admitted stabbing her in the chest Nov. 29 at the Discovery Inn on Chambers Road.
All but one of the 2014 victims were black, the exception being a Macon State Prison inmate, Jeffrey Lee McDonald, 42, who suffered a closed head injury on March 14 at the prison on Fulton Mill Road and died March 28.
The GBI is investigating the death of the Rockdale County convicted child molester, but it was not immediately clear if charges have been filed.
Nearly half of the 2014 killings involve gang members, according to court documents.
Arrests have been made in all but one of last year’s killings in Bibb’s jurisdiction.
“I’m proud of the efforts of our deputies in solving homicides, especially our gang unit and the violent crimes unit working with informants,” Davis said.
Macon Regional Crimestoppers played a part in a number of arrests, including tips that led to the apprehension of half of the four alleged members of the Southside Posse accused of ambushing Arika Jarrell, 23, and Ralph Heard, 32.
The couple died as bullets flew in a botched armed robbery May 29 at Jarrell’s home on Fairburn Avenue.
Alleged robber Terrance Dent Jr. also was mortally wounded.
The bodies of Jarrell and Heard were found a day after a dying Dent was left behind in a pickup truck on Grenada Terrace.
“Crimestoppers is always an important player and they’ve been able to give us tips along the way,” Davis said. “That is a component and piece of the whole puzzle, that people know they can call and anonymously give us information we can follow up on.”
Davis has pooled former detectives from the Macon Police Department with pre-consolidation deputies for a true team effort that kicks in immediately at the crime scene and works around clock until arrests are made and all the evidence is gathered.
Officers are closing in on suspects from the year’s one unsolved homicide, the shooting death of 40-year-old Milton Stephens Jr.
“I feel over time we’ll have that one solved,” Davis said.
Stephens, a dialysis patient who was nearly blind, was found shot to death in the doorway of his ground-floor apartment off Recreation Road on Aug. 18.
Bibb Coroner Leon Jones was particularly troubled by the year’s multiple fatality crimes and the timing of others.
The first two homicides of the year, the killing of Damion “Little Petey” Clayton on an Anthony Road ball field, and Flowers’ unrelated death happened on the same day, a few hours apart.
Within that last week of March, 21-year-old Cedric Patrick Jr. also was killed by a single gunshot while sitting in the front seat of a vehicle parked near Rocky’s liquor store on Eisenhower Parkway.
His cousin 27-year-old Dominick Kantrel Howell Sr. said his gun accidentally fired as he grabbed it while it was slipping from his lap.
Howell remains jailed on a charge of involuntary manslaughter.
Not only did the Fairburn Avenue ambush kill three, but the last three victims of 2014 were wounded in a gang shooting two weeks before Christmas at Wings Cafe on Bloomfield Drive.
“It’s disturbing to see three people killed in one week,” Jones said. “Three families destroyed around the holiday season is horrible. They were adults. They were not teenagers and that’s one of the reasons we stay in the school, to touch these young people.”
The battle to combat violence must be year-round, he said.
Jones often visits schools warning that gangs and drugs can lead to a trip to jail or the morgue.
“No one is going to bring industry to this city if we have a high homicide rate,” Jones said. “I think we’re headed in the right direction, but it’s got to be a total community effort.”
To contact writer Liz Fabian, call 744-4303.