By Justin Cox
Killeen Daily Herald
With four months remaining in 2007, Killeen's homicide count of eight has already bested last year's total.
But unlike in years past, half of those wrongful deaths remain unsolved as the city and its residents have been forced to bear a pair of double-murder cases this year.
While the violent details of each shooting prove difficult to stomach for the friends and families of the four victims, the Killeen Police Department has yet to arrest the responsible parties.
According to police records, since 1998, only one homicide stands as a cold case, remaining unsolved, that of Hector Solorzano-Silverio in 2002.
The year's homicides began with the slaying of Goldsin Nimnuan, 25, who was shot to death around 4:30 a.m. at his apartment at 1515 Janis Drive in the Willow Springs subdivision on Jan. 13.
It would be nearly three months before the next killing, a murder-suicide on Easter Sunday, April 9, on Cimmaron Drive involving Marcianna Bennington, 18, and Shannon Bennington, 22.
Before April's end, the first double-homicide took place.
Darius Treymane Westbrook, 30, and his girlfriend, Natasha Williams Brannum, 36, were found on the floor of their home at 2506 Grasslands Drive by family members at about 4 a.m. Saturday, April 28, the victims of a shooter whose motive still remains unknown.
The next homicide came on June 8 when Joshua James Montague, 26, was found shot to death in a hotel room at the Hallmark Inn & Suites at midday. Montague's alleged shooter, like Nimnuan's, is in custody.
The city's second double homicide came less than one month later when two women, both store clerks, were found gunned down at the Dollar General Store on the 4100 block of Stan Schlueter Loop.
Sheila Reed, 40, was pronounced dead at the scene. Gricelda P. Ramos, 28, was found in critical condition by police and airlifted to Scott & White Memorial Hospital in Temple, where she eventually succumbed to her injuries and was pronounced dead by Justice of the Peace David Barfield at 10:36 a.m.
Most recently, on Aug. 20, when Anthony Jermone Hemingway Sr., 43, was found dead at 7:23 a.m. at the scene of the intrusion in the 1500 block of Windward Drive in Killeen.
Police said he was killed during an exchange of gunfire with a suspected home invader, who was hospitalized with critical injuries. The intruder's identity has not been released, but Killeen police believe the wounded man to be the shooter.
While the healing process for some of the families can begin when the legal system takes hold, people like Chad Davis, a friend of Grasslands Drive victim Darius Westbrook, are still counting on the investigators assigned to the case.
But right now, it's frustrating.
"It's been hard because there's no closure to it," Davis said. "I think about him all the time. I know the cops are doing their jobs, but there's somebody else out there who knows something. They need to come out and speak."
Davis, who had known Westbrook since the two started at school at Ellison High School in 1993, remembers his friend fondly.
"We played football together, but more importantly, we were always good friends," Davis said. "He was always a jokester. He had a lot of good friends out there, not just me. He would always come out and support me in what I did."
Davis extended a plea to the community to help find his friend's killer.
"Somebody out there knows something," Davis said. "That's how this case is going to open up. Morally, it's not right to hold back information like that. These people need to be taken off the streets for what they did. Only God can judge you. Whoever did this to him needs to be brought to justice.
"I remember going to Darius' house when I was a kid and seeing his grandfather. It's sad. Whoever did this, it was pretty brutal, regardless of the reason. It was pretty messed up what they did. They messed up a lot of people's lives."
Davis said he's putting his faith in the Killeen detectives.
"I've got to stand behind the police department and hope and pray they do their job," Davis said. "And if they do, and I'm sure they will, they'll get this thing solved."
Not everyone is so confident, however.
Renee Pelham, sister of Dollar General victim Sheila Reed, is frustrated at the lack of arrests in the case.
"We're all upset, we all want answers," Pelham said, who relays the frustrations of her family in the weak communication lines between them and the Killeen homicide detectives. "The police should be telling us what's going on. I don't think they're doing their job. Maybe I just want answers faster. I just feel they aren't investigating like they should be.
"I want to call her, and tell her that I'm going through this hard time, and I can't. We're all going through our different emotions, but we're all trying to stay together to help each other out. All I know is that my sister deserves justice."
Contact Justin Cox at email@example.com or call (254) 501-7568