2017: Douglas County tallied more homicides than any year in past decade

photo by: Journal-World File Photo

A Lawrence police car sits outside a crime scene in this file photo from 2009.

This year began peacefully enough, but at the end of June, the killings began.

Douglas County has now tallied its most homicides in a single year in at least a decade, according to 2017 counts provided by law enforcement agencies.

All 10 of those happened in the last six months.

Two incidents involved multiple deaths, including Lawrence’s only triple homicide in at least the past decade. In that case, three people were killed by gunfire after a fight erupted around bar-closing time Oct. 1 at the intersection of 11th and Massachusetts streets.

This year’s other multiple homicide was the result of domestic violence. On Aug. 13, a mother and her 3-year-old daughter were shot and killed by the child’s father, who then killed himself.

The six homicides investigated by the Lawrence Police Department this year ties its highest in a decade, which was six homicides in 2014, according to information from the department and past Journal-World reports.

2017 homicide totals by agency

Lawrence Police Department: 6

Douglas County Sheriff’s Office: 3

Eudora Police Department: 1

Baldwin City Police Department: 0

University of Kansas Office of Public Safety: 0


Source: Law enforcement agencies

That is a lot more than usual.

Four years in the past decade, Lawrence was homicide-free. Last year, in 2016, the city had just one.

“One homicide in Lawrence should always be viewed as unusual and cause for concern. Each time an incident occurs where a life is lost, it is our top priority to hold the perpetrator responsible, and to identify the underlying circumstances that led to the incident,” said Lawrence Police Officer Drew Fennelly, a department spokesman. “It is our goal every year, and will be again in 2018, to see the homicide number be zero at the end of the year.”

Outside the Lawrence city limits, the four homicides tallied in 2017 also were unusual.

Until this year, the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office had investigated no homicides in the past decade, agency officials said. This year, the agency had three.

Eudora counted one homicide this year and one in 2016 — an infant whose death at a home day care was ruled homicide by blunt force trauma. Other than those, Eudora Police Chief Wes Lovett said, the city hasn’t had any in the past decade.

Baldwin City and University of Kansas police have reported no homicides in the past decade.

Here is a list of this year’s homicides, along with where each case stands now.

Douglas County homicides of 2017

photo by: Contributed photo

Bo M. Hopson

• June 24 — Eudora bar shooting

Location: D-Dubs Bar and Grill, 10 W. Ninth St. in Eudora

Victim:Bo M. Hopson, 32, of Eudora

What happened? About 1:15 a.m., Hopson, who was working security at the bar, was outside with an apparently intoxicated man who’d been kicked out of the bar. The man was resting on a trailer in the parking lot when he sat up, pulled a gun from his pocket and started shooting, witnesses testified. He hit Hopson twice and also pointed his gun and pulled the trigger at two other men, but the gun misfired.

Status: Danny W. Queen, 36, of Eudora, was arrested at the scene and charged with one count of first-degree murder in the killing of Hopson, plus two counts of attempted first-degree murder. His jury trial is set for April 2.

photo by: Contributed photo

Erin Berg and her daughter, Mazey Berg, 3.

• Aug. 13 — Double murder-suicide in rural Lawrence

Location: East 900 Road and Baker Wetlands

Victims:Erin Berg, 36, and her 3-year-old daughter, Mazey Berg, of Maryville, Mo.

What happened? About 1:30 p.m. Aug. 13, Berg was shot several times in the driveway of a house in the 1000 block of East 900 Road. Authorities believe Mazey’s father, Peter Sander, 41, shot Berg, then drove to the Baker Wetlands, where he then fatally shot Mazey and himself.

photo by: Elvyn Jones

Lawrence Police Department officers investigate a fatal Saturday night shooting at Motel 6 in North Lawrence, Sunday, Sept. 3, 2017.

• Sept. 2 — North Lawrence motel shootings

Location: Motel 6, 1130 N. Third St.

Victim: Cameron Hooks, 23, of Lenexa

What happened?Gunfire broke out about 11:30 p.m. inside a guest room at the motel. Hooks was shot five times. Two other men also were struck by bullets but survived.

A group of friends from Topeka testified that they were hanging out in the motel room smoking marijuana, drinking and watching football with plans to go to a club later that night. Hooks and a friend of his had joined them, and another small group of friends from the Kansas City area also joined later.

Victims testified that suddenly, the men from Kansas City got up and started shooting; one victim testified that the gunmen tried to rob him.

Status: Three men are charged with felony murder during the commission of a robbery and other crimes stemming from the incident: Tyrone J. Carvin, 19, of Kansas City, Kan.; Ramone Singleton, 23, of Kansas City, Kan.; and Shawn K. Smith, 19, of Kansas City, Mo. A joint jury trial is scheduled to begin March 5. Witnesses said a fourth man with them was shooting, too, but that man has not been charged or identified publicly by law enforcement.

Bryce Holladay

• Sept. 19 — Shooting in doorway at West 27th Terrace home

Location: 2013 W. 27th Terrace

Victim: Bryce S. Holladay, 26, of Lawrence

What happened? About 9:50 p.m., after four residents tried to physically force Holladay out the front door, one resident retrieved a gun, warned that he would shoot and — when Holladay kept fighting — shot him once in the face from several feet away. Witnesses said Holladay appeared to be high on meth, was trying to steal items from the home, punched one of the female residents and refused to leave after being pepper-sprayed and threatened with a bat.

Status: The shooter, Steven A. Drake III, 21, of Lawrence was charged with one count of first-degree murder. His attorney has argued the shooting was legal under the state’s self-defense laws. A judge is scheduled to consider that issue and preside over a preliminary hearing in the case on Feb. 8.

Leah Brown

Colwin Lynn Henderson

Tre’Mel Dupree Dean-Rayton

• Oct. 1 — Triple homicide on Massachusetts Street

Location: 11th and Massachusetts streets

Victims:Leah Elizabeth Brown, 22, of Shawnee; Colwin Lynn Henderson, 20, of Topeka; and Tre’Mel Dupree Dean-Rayton, 24, of Topeka.

What happened? About 1:40 a.m., with possibly more than 100 people outside in the area, a flurry of gunfire erupted from what started as a physical fight on the corner. Three people were fatally shot and two others wounded by gunfire. Charges indicate that at least one of those killed, Brown, was a bystander not involved with the altercation.

Status: Three Topeka men have been charged in connection with the incident and are scheduled to have a joint preliminary hearing beginning Jan. 11.

Anthony L. Roberts Jr., 20,  is charged with one count of first-degree felony murder in Brown’s death; two counts of second-degree murder in the deaths of Henderson and Dean-Rayton; and one count of attempted second-degree murder for allegedly shooting another man.

Ahmad M. Rayton, 22, is charged with attempted second-degree murder, and Dominique J. McMillon, 19, is charged with aggravated assault and battery.

photo by: Elvyn Jones

A crew works Monday, Nov. 6, 2017, on the porch of a house at 1104 East 1200 Road where the body of 34-year-old Joel Wales, of Eudora, was found Friday, Nov. 3, 2017, when firefighters and the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office responded to a report of a fire and gunshots.

• Nov. 3 — Body found in burning house

Location: 1104 East 1200 Road, rural Lawrence

Victim: Joel Wales, 34, of Eudora

What happened? Wales’ body was discovered shortly after 9 p.m. Nov. 3 inside a house just south of Lawrence. Sheriff’s deputies were initially dispatched to a report of a house fire with the sound of gunshots in the area. Deputies found the house on fire but couldn’t enter; firefighters extinguished the fire and pulled the body of a man from the home. He was pronounced dead at the scene. No one else was inside.

Status: No arrest. Sheriff’s investigation is ongoing.

Lei-Ala A. Turner

• Dec. 27 — Woman shot at south Lawrence apartment

Location: 2310 W. 26th St., the August Place Apartments

Victim: Lei’ala A. Turner, 30, of Lawrence

What happened? Shortly after 11 p.m. Dec. 27, police were dispatched to an apartment at the complex and found Turner with a single gunshot wound. Despite first-responders’ life-saving measures, she died at the scene.

The following morning police said they had identified and were looking for a suspect. Police said “initial information” indicated the shooting might have been accidental, and that the victim and suspect knew each other, but have not shared more information as the investigation remains open.

Status: Willie K. Franklin, 27, of Lawrence, was arrested late Dec. 31 and charged with involuntary manslaughter and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

Douglas County homicides in past decade

All are Lawrence Police Department cases unless otherwise indicated.

2017 — 10 (6 investigated by Lawrence police, 3 by sheriff, 1 by Eudora police)

2016 — 2 (1 investigated by Lawrence police, 1 by Eudora police)

2015 — 2

2014 — 6

2013 — 3

2012 — 0

2011 — 0

2010 — 0

2009 — 0

2008 — 4

Source: Law enforcement agencies