A map of Augusta plotted with the locations of homicides reveals a sad line that runs through the center of town.
Homicides have occurred in every area of Augusta since January 2005, but a cluster of nine homicides has occurred along Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and continuing onto Deans Bridge Road. More killings have occurred on nearby streets.
Richmond County Sheriff’s Capt. Scott Peebles wrote in an e-mail that he suspects the area’s dense population is a major factor in the cluster of homicides in that area.
The Augusta Chronicle has created a map that shows the location of all homicides in the city in the past six years. Information about the victims, the suspects, the locations, motives when known and the judicial outcomes are included in the updated database at augustachronicle.com/data/homicides.
Last year was an usually high year for homicides in Augusta, with 37. There have been 25 this year. A total of 176 people have been killed in the city since January 2005, more than half of whom were black men, and most of them were young men between 18 and 25 years old.
The Richmond County Sheriff’s violent crimes investigators have been successful in arresting 245 suspects in those homicides. Only 21 remain unsolved – an 88 percent clearance rate, above the 2010 national rate of 64.8 percent.
Peebles credits the department’s success with the sheriff’s rule on homicide: “Sheriff (Ronnie) Strength has made it clear to investigators who work homicides that no one goes home until all known leads are followed immediately. Time of day or night, weekends, holidays are all irrelevant. Homicides take precedence. We stay until there’s nothing left to do.”
“We have a team of investigators who volunteer to be a part of the Major Case Squad. These are investigators who volunteer to be called in and work the homicides as a team. From the day we established the Major Case Squad in 2006, we’ve had great success with the team concept,” Peebles wrote in an e-mail.
Most homicides are committed by suspects who know the victims, and the majority of homicides, 91, took place in a residence. The most common weapon used, in 119 incidents, was a gun.
In 92 of the homicides, more than one person was charged with murder.
A total of 23 juveniles were named as suspects, and 10 of them were convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison.
The district attorney’s office did not seek indictments against 14 suspects, and another six suspects were acquitted at trial. Six suspects committed suicide, including one man who killed himself in jail while awaiting trial.
More than a third of the suspects were between the ages of 18 and 21. The youngest was 12 and the oldest was 84 years old.
In addition to the Augusta map and database of homicides, databases of the homicides in Columbia and Aiken counties are also available at augustachronicle.com/data/homicides .