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Longview residents seek answers to 14 unresolved homicides

By Dylan Bradley
June 21, 2015 at 1:30 a.m.

Lisa Pitts a resident in the 800 block of Aurel BLVD. talks about the recent violence in the neighborhood Thursday, June 18, 2015, in Longview.  (Kevin Green/News-Journal Photo)

George Gutierrez, 18, was watching TV with his younger sister when he heard the gunshots fired just outside of his family's home in South Longview where they have lived for the past 10 years.

"When that happened we just had to drop to the ground," he said as he recalled the shooting. "There were multiple shots."

The rear window of the family vehicle was hit and broken by a bullet, which ricocheted off the top frame of one of his home's front windows a few weeks ago, he said.

Gutierrez is no stranger to the violence that plagues South Longview, the area where many of the city's unresolved homicides — those in which police do not have a suspect — originated.

In the past five years, there have been 14 unresolved homicides in Longview, which resulted in 17 deaths.

The oldest of those dates to Jan. 11, 2010, when Kevin Ramon Williams, 38, was found dead in a home in the 800 block of Travis Avenue in South Longview. The most recent occurred May 20, when Kareshia Rena Jones, 30, was found dead after a shooting on 15th Street in South Longview.

Also among the most recent shootings was the case of 21-year-old Da'Coreyan Blankenship, who was found lying in the roadway in the 800 block of Aurel Avenue — one street south of Travis Avenue — with multiple gunshot wounds.

"LPD feels that having even one open homicide investigation is too many," Longview police spokeswoman Kristie Brian said. "However, without the assistance and cooperation of the public, it is very difficult to solve these open investigations. Anytime we receive a lead on a case we follow up on that lead. We encourage the citizens to get involved, take back their communities and help law enforcement make Longview a safer and greater place to live."

Lisa Pitts, who has lived in the 800 block of Aurel Avenue since December, said she thinks most of the violence is being committed by young people, and that parents should step up. More positive interaction between police and the community would help build trust, she added.

"Try to find more things for the kids to do than sit around and try to sell dope," Pitts said. "I try not to involve my kids in this type of environment, because I kept them active."

She said sports, such as basketball and baseball, are great for the youth to be involved with because they are a better outlet for aggression than violence.

"Young kids trying to make a name for themselves and doing it the wrong way," she said. "They don't have parents supporting them to help them do something positive. They don't have the right type of role models."

While the city has 14 unresolved homicides, there are an additional two cases in the past five years in which police have identified a suspect but an arrest has not been made.

Additionally, the city has made arrests and effectively closed 15 homicide cases in the past five years.

Among those was the June 24, 2014, case in which Chandra "Candy" Martin and Kim Rayson were killed at Martin's home in the 300 block of Thelma Street in the Pine Tree area. Martin's ex-husband, 30-year-old Isaiah Roberts, is charged with capital murder in their deaths. He remains in the Gregg County Jail.

More than 100 people gathered a week ago for a vigil to mark the anniversary of Martin and Rayson's deaths. Martin's cousin Angela Lilly organized the prayer vigil and works in the community to stop bullying and violence.

Rayson and her friend Felicia Booker designed and coordinated an event, Gospel on the Lawn-Stop the Violence, to give people a time and place where they could enjoy themselves without the threat of violence.

Rayson and Martin attended the first Gospel on the Lawn in 2014, the day before they were killed.

"Candy and Kim were like best friends, and so she was there doing her thing for support," Lilly said. "It was devastating. They told me, and I was mess, because I was just with her. We had a great conversation about her life, and she was gone the next day. I'm going to always be a voice for her."

Lilly wants to take the community back, end violence and for people to get involved, she said.

"What are we going to do about it, because we need to do something," she said. "Because I can't do it by myself."

For more information about Longview's homicides in the past seven years, check out the News-Journal homicide interactive at news-journal.com/homicides.

People with information on any case are encouraged to call Gregg County Crime Stoppers and leave a tip, which can be done anonymously. Gregg County Crime Stoppers might pay up to $1,000 for information leading to an arrest or conviction.

To report a crime, call (903) 236-STOP.

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