Atlantic City is on pace for a record year in homicides, but is doing slightly better than last year when it comes to solving cases.
On Monday, investigators charged David J. Williams, 48, in the killing of Siddiqah Bryant, a 23-year-old Atlantic City mother found strangled inside a van near the bus terminal. The arrest — which included tracking the city man to Texas — is the sixth case considered solved of the 12 homicides in the city so far this year.
At this time last year, seven people had been killed in the city with two more later dying from their injuries. Of those nine fatal attacks, four arrests had been made by the end of July. Two more resulted in arrests later in the year, including six people charged in October in the March 26, 2011, abduction and killing of Nadirah Ruffin.
Ruffin, 19, was taken from a Back Maryland apartment at gunpoint and eventually found dead in Philadelphia’s Schuylkill River. Three of the people charged in her killing could face the death penalty under a federal charge in the case.
A case is considered solved when someone has been charged in the crime. County-wide, the rate is down from this time last year, with an arrest in only one of the five homicides outside Atlantic City, putting the total solve rate at 41 percent compared with 58 percent in 2011.
The Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office Major Crimes Unit leads all homicide investigations investigations in Atlantic County, usually with a detective from the municipal department assisting.
“Neither myself nor any supervisor or detective in the Major Crime Unit will be satisfied until the solve rate is 100 percent,” acting Atlantic County Prosecutor Jim McClain said. “Every single case represents the loss of a human life. Therefore, we cannot accept anything less than 100 percent, and that is what we are aiming for.”
The additional violence has tasked his office, McClain admits.
“When your have a limited number of people you can designate to a task and new cases are constantly coming in, the challenge becomes to appropriately investigate the new cases while any evidence is fresh while not losing momentum in older cases,” he said.
Adding to that strain is the loss of two of Atlantic City’s three detectives that are tasked to the prosecutor’s Major Crimes Unit. The city took back those two officers to put more patrols in the city’s troubled areas.
“We then had to reassign two people from other functions within this office in order to ensure that homicide investigations remain a No. 1 priority,” McClain said.
In addition to the six Atlantic City homicides that remain unsolved this year, there are four others in the county that have not yet resulted in arrests, including the high-profile death of local radio personality and veterans advocate April Kauffman.
Kauffman was found shot to death in the bedroom of her Linwood home May 10 — a week before Bryant became a victim in Atlantic City. Supporters have been vocal about the lack of an arrest in that case.
Former Atlantic County Prosecutor Ted Housel had expressed confidence that an arrest would be made during a news conference the day after she was killed. No updates have been released about that case.
Contact Lynda Cohen:
Follow Lynda Cohen on Twitter @LyndaCohen