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The Do It Well and Leave Something Witchy Issue

Turning Up the Heat on Detroit’s Cold Cases

About 18 months ago, the Detroit Police Department disbanded its cold case unit. Now, a group of mothers whose children have been murdered are picking up the slack.

by Alison Flowers
Oct 6 2014, 1:00pm

Photo courtesy of MOMCs

In 2011, Andrea Perkins Clark got a call from a high school friend whose son was missing. After they spent several days searching, his body was found in a vacant lot next to a police station. Clark comforted her friend. Two weeks later, Clark’s own son, 30-year-old Darnell Steven Perkins, was murdered while taking pictures for a birthday party, shot multiple times outside a Detroit nightclub.

“I began a never-ending quest to seek justice for my son’s murder,” Clark said. But she soon discovered that there weren’t a lot of resources for mothers like her. People stayed away. So Clark formed a “mutual self-help therapy” group in Detroit to provide support to other moms seeking justice, the straightforwardly named Mothers of Murdered Children.

About 18 months ago, the Detroit Police Department quietly disbanded its cold-case unit, distributing the investigations among homicide detectives already slammed with trying to solve the city’s recent murders—more than 300 in 2013. The police department has also cycled through five different police chiefs in as many years. DPD declined to comment for this story.

“It’s unconscionable that a police chief can barely handle the crimes on his watch; he can’t handle crimes from five police chiefs ago,” said Brenda Hill, an MOMC member whose 22-year-old nephew was shot while walking a group of women to their car outside a nightclub in 2009. He and another woman were killed.“ He was doing what I taught him to do,” she added. “To be a gentleman. To protect women. He got a bullet in the back of the head for that.”

“There was barely any outrage,” Hill added. “Two children. Blood running red on the streets of Detroit. In that moment, I knew something had to change.” 

To fill the gaps in policing, Detroit’s “self-help” moms go out to crime scenes to stand with victims’ families and provide conflict-resolution training to kids. The group has also been working with the national organization Crime Stoppers USA to solve cases, offering cash rewards for anonymous information. But a code of silence often governs the streets of Detroit.

 “It’s called snitching,” Hills said. “There is an atmosphere of ‘protect the perpetrator.’”