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Homicide Investigator Steve Fanning works at his desk. Only two of the county's 20 murders in 2006 remain unsolved.  Michael Holahan/Staff
Michael Holahan/Staff
Homicide Investigator Steve Fanning works at his desk. Only two of the county's 20 murders in 2006 remain unsolved.

That's the message that investigators with the Richmond County Sheriff's Office want to get across to homicide suspects throughout the area, and they have the numbers to prove it.

Of the 20 homicides the department investigated in 2006, only two remained open by year's end.

This gives the department a homicide clearance rate of 90 percent, which is better than many similarly sized departments across the state, and typically better than the national average.

The FBI will not release its national crime arrest rate until May but in 2005 the rate was at 62.1 percent.

That same year the RCSO was at 80 percent.

Many in the department attribute their success to the major case squad - a quick response unit consisting of up to 10 violent crime detectives, all volunteers, who are dispatched to homicides and other high profile cases.

Maj. Ken Autry believes that having the department's most experienced investigators working together in a unit, in addition to what he calls the "best crime scene techs in the region," have enhanced their ability to solve the tough cases.

"All that put together is why we're so successful on solving homicides," Maj. Autry said.

Still, without the help of the community, little could get done, said Sheriff Ronnie Strength.

Sheriff Strength said he was pleased with the help his department received from the community, and this year's high homicide clearance rate stands as a testament to their assistance.

The outpouring of information and other tips from the community was especially high during the investigation into the rape of a 74-year-old woman in her Summerville home last month, said Investigator Steve Fanning.

He said it took 73 leads from citizens before they had the enough information to make an arrest. Without the calls from concerned citizens, he said detectives often find themselves in a situation in which information grows stale and memories of the incident dwindle.

To date, the RCSO is still investigating two homicide cases from 2006.

John Grimes III and Isaiah Selman were killed only weeks apart this summer and police have yet to make any arrests.

Mr. Grimes, 27, was gunned down while riding a bike near the corner of Martin Luther King Boulevard and 12th Street in the early morning hours of June 24. He died from a single gunshot wound to the chest.

On July 10, the body of Isaiah Selman, 28, was found near 3011 Old McDuffie Road by a landscaper at the nearby Living Word Christian Center after he spotted smoke coming from across the road.

Mr. Selman's body had been dumped at the site and lit on fire. An autopsy later revealed that he had died from asphyxiation and witnesses reported seeing duct tape over parts of his face.

Investigator Fanning said both cases have been difficult because detectives had very few leads to follow.

He said in the killing of John Grimes, very few people in the community have come forward with information. On the other hand, the investigation of Isaiah Selman's murder was complicated not by a lack of information about Mr. Selman's death, but by the way he lived his life.

"He was known to basically sleep at different residences and there was no one place that he claimed as his home," Investigator Fanning said. "He was very sporadic in his movements."

Mr. Selman was also known to block all of his phone calls, he said.

Reach Adam Folk at (706) 823-3339 or


Homicide clearance rates around the state in 2006:

- Savannah-Chatham County Sheriff's Department: 72 percent (29 homicides, 21 cleared)

- Macon Police Department: 92 percent (12 murders, 11 cleared)

- Bibb County Sheriff's Department: 100 percent (four murders, all cleared)

- Columbus Police Department: 63 percent (16 murders, 10 cleared)

- Richmond County Sheriff's Office: 90 percent (20 murders, 18 cleared)

Sources: Sgt. Melanie Hoffman, Macon Police Department; Capt. Mike Smallwood, Bibb County Sheriff's Office; Megan Matteucci, Savannah Morning News; Investigator Steve Fanning, Richmond County Sheriff's Office



Armed Robberies

57 percent clearance rate

Incidents: 352

Arrests: 43

Cleared: 157


75 percent clearance rate

Incidents: 91

Arrests: 6

Cleared: 62

Aggravated assault

79 percent clearance rate

Incidents: 223

Arrests: 81

Cleared: 95


19 percent clearance rate

Incidents: 2,855

Arrests: 165

Cleared: 388

Child molestation

80 percent clearance rate

Incidents: 128

Arrests: 40

Cleared: 62

Note: cases may also have been cleared if found to be false, the victim declined to prosecute and other reasons.

Source: Investigator Steve Fanning, Inv. Keith McGarity.

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swtgeorgiapch08 02/25/07 - 10:54 am
I have to disagree. No ones

I have to disagree. No ones ever found out who kill Ruben Maldanado. He' been gone almost ten years. Tell me what there doing about this murder case why dont you??

amothermyself 02/25/07 - 11:35 am
I also disagree. Cases are

I also disagree. Cases are not treated fairly in the Richmond Co. area as far as charges and sentencing. This makes the study incorrect. The 1st man in GA to be charged, convicted, and sentenced of murder for a DUI accident happened in Richmond Co. The Judge reprimanded the prosecuting DA during the trial for bringing in NOTHING but circumstantial evidence that would make this case murder instead of 1st degree vehicular homicide (saying his vehicle was 15 or so miles away from the accident, with no one identifying wither him or his vehicle). The man was also charged and convicted with several aggravated assault charges for vehicles that swerved yet was never touched by the mans car before a fatal crash. With no prior arrests of any kind, this man was found guilty of murder and the aggravated assault charges. Those that commit a crime deserve to pay for their crime, not crimes that are stacked and with no evidence to back a charge or conviction. There is no way their above findings are correct if this is the way they work their cases.

Edward1968 02/25/07 - 11:52 am
I think RCSO does a great job

I think RCSO does a great job on all matters of investigation. Yes, some cases go unsolved. This most likely is due to leads not panning out or few leads to go on. As crime goes on the detectives have to handle these new ones while leads and witnesses are fresh. No other law enforcement office anywhere is any different. As far a sentencing, the DAs and judges have to go by the law with what evidence and facts they have. Yes, many get off with less-than-deserved punishments or none at all.

d.ware64 02/25/07 - 01:39 pm
I feel as if RCSO were doing

I feel as if RCSO were doing such a wonderful job and treating every cases so fairly then they would find "who" or "what" kind of pitiful excuse for a human being killed my brother,"JOHN GRIMES,lll." because there were leads. But then again it may just depend on "WHO U ARE or WHERE U ARE FROM". and to the low-life creature that is suppposed to be human who took LIL'JOHN's life I truly hope you can look at yourself in the mirror!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

El Guapo
El Guapo 02/25/07 - 02:04 pm
And what about Manuel

And what about Manuel Pantoja's murder? It's been 4 years and no leads whatsoever. My 85 year old grandpa was beaten and stabbed to death in his own home and you still have no ideas. Great job RCSO.

justice4eugene 02/25/07 - 03:09 pm
A very dear friend of ours

A very dear friend of ours was murdered back in 98. His name was Eugene Calvin Crawford. It's been 8 years and the case still remains unsolved. He was only 19 years old. His life was cut short but RCSO doesn't care other wise his murder would have been solved a long time ago. There have been leads and very good leads from what his family and friends have been told by the investigators. So I ask, What's RCSO waiting for? What is it going to take to solve this case? Is it the lack of money or support?

Marco 02/25/07 - 05:54 pm
My father was murdered in his

My father was murdered in his own home, but the Columbia County Sheriff's Department will not even investigate the case, citing "Political matters". I know Ronnie Strength very well, it's a shame my dad lived in Columbia County, instead of Richmond County, Richmond County does it's job, no matter what!

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