Nearly 3,800 Cases Resolved with Durham CrimeStoppers

Durham Police Corporal Martin Walkowe is coordinator of Durham CrimeStoppers. Photo by Leanora Minai.

Martin Walkowe fields an average of 142 calls a month made to the Durham CrimeStoppers anonymous tip line.

Many callers provide information about people with active arrest warrants for felony charges, like possession with intent to sell cocaine and possession of a firearm by a felon. But Walkowe is also on the other end of the phone line at 3 a.m. or 4 a.m. when someone calls wanting to talk about a homicide or other violent crime in the city or county of Durham.

"It’s almost like Christmas sometimes when you get that phone call, and they give you the information that’s just the key the investigator needed to solve that crime,” said Walkowe, corporal with the Durham Police Department and coordinator of Durham County’s CrimeStoppers program.

Since Durham CrimeStoppers' inception in 1983, information provided to the program has led to the resolution of nearly 3,800 cases, including 172 homicides, 344 armed robberies and 487 burglaries, according to an October activity report. Also through the program, 1,119 fugitives have been arrested.

A non-profit program partnering with law enforcement agencies in Durham County, CrimeStoppers is rooted in anonymity. People who call do not identify themselves or provide a name, and Walkowe doesn’t ask. Instead, callers are given a code number. If information leads to an arrest in a felony crime, the caller again contacts CrimeStoppers to arrange payment of the cash reward.

Walkowe, who joined the Durham Police Department as a patrol officer in 1994, recently talked with me about CrimeStoppers and its impact.

How did CrimeStoppers get started?

CrimeStoppers started in the mid-70s in Albuquerque, New Mexico. There was a homicide at a convenience store with very few leads. The police turned to media for assistance, which led to a caller with a tip, which led to an arrest. It was one of the first documented times where the media was used along with law enforcement requesting the public’s help with a crime.

What benefit does CrimeStoppers offer the community?

The benefit of CrimeStoppers is it does provide an anonymous line for people to report any information they have about crimes. The important thing is, being anonymous they know they won’t be revealed. Having an anonymous tip line instead of a confidential tip line is a huge asset to any community.

How does your experience as an investigator help in your role?

I’m the only one who answers the tip line. If a caller calls, I can use my ability as an investigator to get more out of the call than basically ‘John Doe did it.’ I can say, ‘can you give me John Doe’s approximate age, height, weight, how do you know it’s true?’ Things that a tip line normally wouldn’t receive or ask about.

How do you get funding for the cash rewards?

The biggest misconception the public has is that it is funded through the government, and that’s not true. Rewards come from donations … in the past, fundraisers. The strength of the program depends on cash rewards. Not everybody requests a cash reward when they call the tip line, but that’s the motivation for people to call. If we don’t have the funding, it jeopardizes our program.

How much are the rewards?

They range from $100 to $1,500 for a homicide. It can exceed that range if there is money earmarked specifically for that case where donors have given $5,000 or $10,000.

What drives CrimeStoppers’ success?

Everybody deserves credit. Without the police, the media and the public, our program would fall flat. There’s no way to sustain it without all three involved.

Durham CrimeStoppers is a member of the Southeastern Crime Stoppers Association. For more information about the program or to donate to Durham CrimeStoppers, visit the Durham CrimeStoppers website. Anyone with information about a crime in Durham or Durham County may call (919) 683-1200. Other CrimeStoppers programs in the area: Raleigh, Cary and Chapel Hill.

Walking to Prevent Suicide, the 10th Leading Cause of Death

Oriana Clayton, holding a memorial sign in front, walks Saturday in Wake Forest. Photo by Leanora Minai.They wore beads. Gold, for loss of a parent. Silver, a child. Red, for a spouse or partner.

They wore Burger King crowns for a would-be 22nd birthday.

They wrote notes like "the world just isn't the same" on paper butterflies, balloons and hearts, then tied them to tree branches.

“This is my son. He’s the impetus for everything,” said Carolyn Zahnow, touching a ‘Remembering Cameron 1987-2005’ button pinned to her T-shirt. 

Zahnow organized the Out of the Darkness Community Walk on Saturday in Wake Forest to benefit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. About 250 people walked 3-miles through Historic Downtown Wake Forest, raising $7,389 to help prevent suicide, the 4th leading cause of death for adults between the ages of 18 and 65, and the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S.

“Survivors get a sense of comfort because we all come together,” Zahnow said. “We’re all here to try and prevent additional suicide. If you don’t try, you’ll never prevent any.”

Colton’s Crew

Colton Ayscue would have turned 22 on Nov. 12, 2011, the day of the Out of the Darkness Community Walk. Photo by Leanora Minai. Dozens walked in memory of Colton Ayscue, who died May 5, 2011. Friends and family wore gold Burger King crowns and T-shirts that read “Colton’s Crew” on the back, “Forever In Our Hearts” on the front. Even his dog, Basil, joined the walk. Colton played baseball at Southeast Raleigh Magnet High School. During the last game of his high school career, he covered third base, pitched and played catcher all in a single inning. He also hit a home run that day. A graduate of North Carolina State University Agricultural Institute, he worked as a golf course maintenance assistant with the Methodist University Professional Golf Management program in Fayetteville. He was taking classes toward a business degree. “Every time you saw him, he had a smile on his face,” said his father, Steve Ayscue. “That’s what everybody keeps putting on Facebook. They want to see it one more time.” But Colton missed his brother, who was in the military, and was having a tough time with the end of a relationship, family said. Last year, Colton was diagnosed with depression. He would have turned 22 on Saturday, the day of the walk. 

Remembering Cameron

Carolyn Zahnow positions a note for her son, Cameron, on a tree. "Miss you more than words," she wrote. Photo by Leanora Minai.Carolyn Zahnow is founder and facilitator of Wake Forest Survivors of Suicide, one of four support groups in the Triangle area. In addition to leading the support group, she is the author of “Save The Teens: Preventing Suicide, Depression and Addiction.” When she's not working as a communications manager for a non-profit in Raleigh, she works to prevent suicide and break down the stigma. “When survivors lose someone to suicide, we’re sometimes afraid to tell people,” she said. Her son, Cameron, was a graphic artist who wrote and took photos. Cameron's father died when he was 15. “That’s when his depression kicked in,” she said. Cameron eventually became addicted to meth. He took his life on Aug. 11, 2005, at age 18. “They get so deep and depressed like in a really dark hole,” Zahnow said. “You get that deep in it, and you don’t think about asking anybody for help. They have so many days like that.”

For resources, and to get involved, please contact the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. To make a donation to help the Wake Forest walkers reach their $10,000 goal by Dec. 31, visit their Out of the Darkness Community Walk website.

Slideshow: Moments from the Walk

VIDEO: Motorcycle Clubs Deliver ‘Gifts of Kindness’ to Children Shot in Durham Drive-By

Wearing a black motorcycle jacket emblazoned with “Live Free Ride Hard,” Rodney Long rolled down Fidelity Drive today on a gold Kawasaki Ninja.

Dozens of motorcycles followed behind him, filling the street with the thunderous roar of engines as they approached their destination. They arrived with toys, clothes and cash for two children injured Oct. 23 in a drive-by shooting in Durham. Aunehstii Hagans, 1, and Anaryiion Hagans, 3, were grazed by stray bullets that penetrated their home on a Sunday afternoon as their mother prepared dinner. Three men have been charged in connection with the shooting that injured them.

“I saw it on the news and immediately started thinking, ‘what can I do?’ ” said Long, a computer network engineer and founding president of Evolution Motorcycle Club in Raleigh. “There are so many things we can do in our community. Sometimes, the smallest little act can turn into something bigger.”

Long used the phone and Facebook to mobilize motorcyclists from as far away as Charlotte for today’sAnaryiion Hagans, 3, left, and Aunehstii Hagans, 1, play with toys donated by 12 motorcycle clubs as part of a benefit led by Evolution Motorcycle Club in Raleigh. Photo by Leanora Minai. “Random Act of Kindness Ride.” 

“No child should feel unsafe in their home,” the club’s Facebook post said. “… Let’s come together as a community and bring gifts of kindness to these children.”

More than 50 motorcyclists from 12 clubs delivered presents to the children, their mother, Dominique Hagans, and grandmother, Judy Leach, at their home in Durham. Brought to tears, Mrs. Leach and Ms. Hagans thanked the crowd. “Not everybody’s bad,” Mrs. Leach said.

Davontay “P-Nut” Rushing, president of Kingz & Queenz Riderz, rode his red Honda 171 miles from Charlotte to participate in the ride. “I’m always for the kids,” he said. “I’m a rider. I don’t care where it’s at. I’m going.”

Gunshot Victim at Age 1

Aunehstii Hagans, 1, and brother, Anaryiion, 3, were grazed by bullets that entered their North Driver Street home. Photo by Leanora Minai.

In her North Driver Street home, Dominique Hagans stuffed a roasting chicken to go along with the biscuits, cabbage and macaroni and cheese for Sunday dinner.

“Before I could get to the cabbage, that’s when I heard the gunshots,” said Hagans, 22.

Hagans ran to check on her children and found them in the living room. Stray bullets, fired from a passing car, had grazed her 1-year-old daughter, Aunehstii, and 3-year-old son, Anaryiion. 

Aunehstii was on the floor.

“She was in a puddle of blood,” Hagans said. “I just started panicking and crying.”

The children were treated and released from Duke University Hospital on Oct. 24, a day after the 1 p.m. drive-by shooting in the 200 block of North Driver Street in Durham. A man outside also was injured in the shooting.

According to witness reports, the shots may have been fired from a blue, four-door vehicle with tinted windows.

One bullet penetrated the siding on the front of the home; another bullet went through the front door. Investigators with the Durham Police Department are asking for the public’s help in identifying the people responsible, and Durham CrimeStoppers is offering a reward for tips leading to an arrest.

“We are asking members of the community to call us with any information they might have about this incident,” said Deputy Chief S.M. Mihaich. “We take any case involving children very seriously, and our officers and investigators have been speaking with residents of this neighborhood about this case.”

Hagans said she does not know who fired the bullets but has this message for whoever did:

“I hope you feel like I feel. I hope you turn yourself in because you hurt somebody else’s kids. I hope you learn from your actions. I’m not mad with you. I just feel like you should have thought first before you did what you did. They’re babies. They didn’t deserve to be hurt the way you hurt them.”

Slideshow: Police, Volunteers Canvass for Tips

Anyone with information about the North Driver Street shooting is asked to call Durham Police Investigator Cristaldi at (919) 560-4281, ext. 29123 or CrimeStoppers at (919) 683-1200. CrimeStoppers pays cash rewards for information leading to arrests in felony cases and callers never have to identify themselves.

Film Outtake: Mother Recalls Day She Saw Son's Killer

Since launching this website on Sept. 25, I've reported and shared stories about unsolved homicides and a former crack addict who turned her life around to become an inspiration to many.

I've also begun the first of two final required classes at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke. This next-to-last class is an independent study with an instructor who will guide me in pulling together the story for my short documentary film.

So far, I've amassed about 10 hours of footage that includes interviews with parents of murdered children, support groups, vigils and community responses to homicides in Durham.

Over the next several weeks, I'll work diligently to watch back and trim all of my raw footage down to about 90 minutes. I have some tough choices to make. The final cut will be a 10 to 12 minute film screened next year when I receive my certificate in video documentary arts from the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke.

As I work on the film, I'll share short video excerpts here on the news blog of footage that may or may not make it in the final cut.   

In today's outtake, Mina Hampton recalls the day she crossed paths in a local fast food restaurant with the man who killed her son, Tommy. Her son was shot and killed in Durham on Feb. 19, 1994. Four men were arrested in the case; she said the shooter served about four years.

"I want him to do well … But I do not want to talk with him," said Mrs. Hampton of her son’s killer, "and I do not care to see him."


Former Addict Brings Message of Hope, Recovery to Durham

Tonier Cain, 43, of Maryland, stands before a photo of herself as a child, as she speaks Oct. 14 in Durham about the importance of coordinated treatment for trauma, mental illness and substance abuse. Photo by Leanora Minai.For 19 years, Tonier Cain slept under a bridge, ate from trash cans and smoked crack cocaine. 

She was arrested 83 times, and convicted 66.

"I was a homeless crack addict," she told police, mental health counselors and others gathered in Durham last week.

Today, Cain, who is from Maryland, tours the country, sharing her story of trauma and recovery.

Her slide presentation is a window into two worlds: Cain in a jail mugshot in Annapolis; Cain standing with former President Bill Clinton in San Diego.

She provided the keynote during the 4th annual Durham Crisis Intervention Team recognition banquet, honoring specially trained police officers and volunteers who’ve gone beyond the call of duty to avert crisis. 

In the city and county of Durham, 251 officers and personnel are trained in crisis intervention. From January through September of this year, Durham police officers responded to more than 1,600 calls involving mental health issues. 

"Changing lives one person at a time," Sgt. Lori Ray of the Durham Police Department said during opening remarks. "It's not about one individual, one group, one agency. It's about a partnership."

During the banquet in the hall of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2740, several awards were presented, and special recognition was given to fire and medic unit personnel who saved the life of a suicidal individual attempting to jump from a bridge.

Some in the audience represented the very professions that Cain says let her down in Maryland. 

Until seven years ago. 

Cain's story begins at age 9. The oldest, Cain had eight brothers and sisters. Sometimes, her mother left them alone for two, three days at a time in filthy conditions. Her mother entertained men, who, she says, molested her. To numb the pain, she drank alcohol. 

At 11, she entered foster care, separated from her siblings. 

At 14, she swallowed a bottle of pills.

She survived, but at 19 years old, she found crack cocaine. "It was the answer to all of my problems," said Cain. She was introduced to the criminal justice system and mental health institutions, where counselors gave different diagnoses on different days.

She spent years living on the streets in Annapolis, trading sex for crack.

"Nobody asked me 'why,'" said Cain, now 43.

She told of times when the system let her down. She said her nose was broken during an arrest, and that a drug counselor sexually assaulted her.

But about seven years ago, her life changed when she walked through the door of a treatment program. "I'm so glad you’re here," Cain was told.

A therapist worked with Cain on her trauma: the beatings and rapes she could remember. The lack of love from her mother. The four children Cain gave birth to but gave up. "If I passed them in the streets, I wouldn't even know them," she said. "How do you heal from that?"

With treatment, she said, her belief system changed, her thought process changed, then her decisions changed.

Today, Cain has a daughter in private school. She owns a home. She’s a CEO. She’s an advocate and subject of the documentary, "Healing Neen." 

"What a difference it makes when we start to ask, ‘what happened to you’ instead of ‘what’s wrong with you?’" she said.

Treat the trauma, she told the audience.

"Where there’s breath, there's hope …" Cain said. "I am your evidence."

Ian Davis Homicide Featured in Cold Case Playing Cards (video)

The homicide of Ian Davis is one of 52 playing cards featuring unsolved murders in the city and county of Durham.In the deck of playing cards fanned out in front of me at the Durham Police headquarters, the queen of clubs is Ian Davis II. He is smiling, his cheeks red from time in the sun.

“UNSOLVED HOMICIDE,” the card says.

His card is one of 52 in a deck featuring cold homicide cases in the city and county of Durham. The deck includes 53 victims (the ace of spades is a double-homicide from 2009). The Durham Police Department created the cards last year and distributed 500 decks, most to local jails and prisons in hopes they will generate leads and arrests.

“Hopefully, someone will talk,” said Michele Soucie, a Durham Police homicide detective. “A lot of times, when people get locked up, they have information that’s helpful to a case, but they might not realize the case is still open or think that it may have been solved.” 

It was Soucie’s idea to create the cold case playing cards, which were developed in collaboration with Durham CrimeStoppers. 

Ian Davis II was asleep on a couch in the Parkwood neighborhood in Durham on Oct. 1, 2002, when several men threw cinder blocks through a sliding glass door of the townhouse at 1304 Seaton Rd. They entered the living room, ordered Ian to the floor, and then shot him at close range with a shotgun, killing him. He was 18. 

No leads have come yet through the playing card highlighting Ian’s case. A $10,000 reward, posted by the family, is available through CrimeStoppers and expires next year. 

Since the murder nine years ago, Ian’s mother, Betty Davis, lives every day knowing her son will never walk through the front door. She said she wants closure but is willing to wait for a case with irrefutable evidence against the killer to avoid any acquittal in court, something she said she could not bear.

Betty Davis holds a photo of her son, Ian Davis. Ian was murdered in 2002. Photo by Leanora Minai.“It just about drove me crazy at first knowing there was somebody walking out there that had pulled a trigger that took my son’s life,” said Ms. Davis, 60. “We still struggle with it, and we always will.”

She herself was a “prime example,” she said, of someone who believed, “this happens to other people.” Her son, the youngest of three children and graduate of Green Hope High School, was in the wrong place at the wrong time, she said. 

On Sept. 30, 2002, at about 10:15 p.m., Ian was watching TV at home but decided to leave and visit a friend. His mom begged him to stay home. It was too late, she told him. But he went anyway, telling her not to worry, that he was only going two blocks. Later, his mom said, Ian and a friend stopped by the townhouse on Seaton Road, where they cooked spaghetti, watched TV and fell asleep.

At 2:56 a.m. Oct. 1, several men broke into the townhouse. Ms. Davis said a man whom her son did not know had started staying in the townhouse prior to the shooting and that the man may have been involved with drugs. “They think they broke in to get drugs,” she said.

“If I had put my foot down that night, he’d be at home,” Ms. Davis said. “You second guess these things the rest of your life.”

But the good memories come easy for her. Dancing with her son at her daughter’s wedding. Eating pizza with him on Friday nights. Shopping at the mall and chipping in for Nautica and Abercrombie & Fitch clothing that still hang in a closet at home, in the bedroom she has kept as Ian left it.  

This summer, Ms. Davis was diagnosed with lung cancer. When asked whether she feels a sense of urgency for closure in her son’s case, she said she has faith in a higher power, that those responsible for her son’s death will be held accountable. 

For now, she holds onto the memories. “I know one day,” she said, “I’ll see him again.”

Anyone with information about the case is asked to call Detective Michele Soucie, (919) 560-4440, ext. 29337, or CrimeStoppers, (919) 683-1200. CrimeStoppers offers anonymity and cash rewards for information leading to the arrest and indictment of felony crime offenders.


‘My Daughter Died in My Arms’

Demetriss China holds a T-shirt made for her daughter's funeral. Photo by Leanora Minai..
 (If the audio player above does not appear/work on your device, please click here to listen.)

As part of my documentary fieldwork, I’m meeting with mothers whose children have been fatally shot in Durham.

Yesterday, I visited Demetriss China, 28, as she folded laundry at home. Her daughter, Shakanah, was standing outside May 10 when someone opened fire from a passing green van. Shakanah, 13, was not the intended target but was killed. No arrests have been made in the shooting.

The day she died, Shakanah stood outside with her mother and siblings, ages 6 and 14 months. Others from the neighborhood joined them.

They played basketball. They talked, laughed.

And then, the green van rolled by a second time.

Listen to the accompanying audio excerpt (above) of my interview with Demetriss as she recounts the moments that forever changed her life, and took her daughter’s away.

No Arrest Yet for Girl Killed in Durham Drive-By, Memory Lives on Facebook

When I met with Shakanah China’s step-grandmother at her office in Durham, she said people are feeling a range of emotions.

Shakanah China was fatally shot May 10 in a drive-by in Durham.Angry because Shakanah, 13, was shot to death in a drive-by, and no one has been arrested and charged with the crime; grateful because bullets missed others standing outside 7 Atka Court in Durham on May 10.

“Everyone was outside,” said Annette Carrington, the step-grandmother. “It was a warm day."

Around 7:30 p.m., a green van rolled down Rochelle Street. As the vehicle approached Atka Court, someone inside the van fired several shots.

“The first or second one nipped her thumb and the third one shot her in the chest,” said Carrington, a program manager and health educator for Durham County. 

Shakanah was taken to Duke University Hospital, where she was pronounced dead a short time later. Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez has said she was not the intended target, and investigators have asked the public for information about a fight that reportedly occured on Atka Court earlier in the week of the homicide. 

Police announced a Durham CrimeStoppers reward in July for information leading to an arrest, but four months after the shooting, the murder remains unsolved. 

“Shakanah’s death made national headlines and after that death, there’s nothing,” Carrington said. “You don’t have follow-up reports or anything.”

Shakanah was a special girl, she said.This is an excerpt from the profile for Shakanah China on Facebook, created after her death. The latest post, as of this writing, is from September 15: "see youu real soon KANAH :) -- gone but never forgotten."

She loved the cell phone she got for Christmas, enjoyed getting her hair braided and played with stuffed animals. Shakanah was also serious about her future. She enrolled in “Together Everyone Accomplishes Something,” a teen pregnancy prevention program that Carrington helps manage for the county. For nine months, teens are taught life skills and perform community service. Shakanah had one month left.

“That’s an indication she wanted to stay on track,” Carrington said.

On Facebook, a public profile has been created in Shakanah’s name with 1,325 people following it as of this writing. The first post on the Facebook wall came three days after her death, and it reads, “senseless acts takes [sic] away lives.” Someone replied, “Especially the innocent ones who havnt [sic] even begun to live their life.”

Anyone with information about the case is asked to call Durham Police Investigator Pate at (919) 560-4440 ext. 29332 or CrimeStoppers at (919) 683-1200. CrimeStoppers pays cash rewards for information leading to arrests in felony cases. Callers do not have to identify themselves.

Ride-Along With the Durham Police HEAT Team

A man is treated on Holloway Street in Durham for wounds after he was struck in the head with a gun on July 8. Photo by Leanora Minai.

In July, I rode with Robert Gaddy, sergeant of the Durham Police Department's High Enforcement Abatement Team (HEAT) for District 1.

He and other officers on the team enforce "matters of drugs, narcotics, vice-related issues," Gaddy said. "We also do gang enforcement, as well as prevention and education." 

After a traffic stop, an officer tests bills for the presence of heroin. Photo by Leanora Minai.

Within moments of my ride, Gaddy pulled behind a fellow Durham police officer's cruiser to assist with a traffic stop. Before I could adjust the settings on my video camera, Gaddy had hopped from our car. He ran to help a fellow officer prevent the motorist from swallowing drugs. Police recovered "nickel bags" of marijuana from the car. Officers tested cash, and it came back positive for the presence of heroin. The motorist went to jail, and a tow truck pulled his car from the scene.

Soon after that stop, we drove toward Edgemont Park, where people were loitering and drinking in the pavilion. I got an education in gang graffiti. "Rollin 60," reportedly representing the Crips, marked a picnic table, pavilion post and ceiling. 

A Durham police officer points to "RSC," which stands for Rollin' Sixty Crip. Photo by Leanora Minai.

Gang culture won't play prominently in my short film, but I found the sights relevant and important to observe.  

Lights and sirens ended my ride with Gaddy. The police radio in the car crackled with a call of a shooting on Holloway Street near Chester Street.

Turned out, the man wasn't shot. Someone hit him in the back of the head with a blunt object, possibly a pistol. It was aggravated assault.

Over a radio.