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The future of Metro Homicide

Prosecutor speaks out after South Bend pulls out of agreement
Published: Sep. 9, 2021 at 7:29 PM EDT
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - It’s hard to imagine life without St. Joseph County’s County Metro Homicide Unit investigating suspicious deaths.

That’s because the unit has been part of the crime fighting community since 1993.

When the unit was formed, South Bend Mayor James Mueller was 11 years old and current St. Joseph County Prosecutor Ken Cotter was a deputy handling misdemeanors. “So, I couldn’t really tell you why it started, I’m just, thank God it did.”

From 2007 until 2014, Cotter was the deputy in charge of handling homicides. “I presented 53 homicide trials to jury. Convictions in 51 of them.”

Cotter says, on average, the homicide unit has solved nearly 80 percent of its cases since 2003. “Our most egregious crimes are homicide, rapes, child abuse, domestic violence. I think that those resources or those crimes deserve those resources.”

The City of South Bend says a manpower shortage on the police department prevents it from continuing to assign officers to the homicide unit and to a Special Victims Unit that deals with domestic violence cases.

The prosecutor says without the city’s participation, both units will disband at the end of the year.

The last three years have been particularly challenging. 2020 brought a record number of 41 homicides—twice the annual average, and a dozen of those cases are still unsolved.

For the last three years, the unit’s solvability rate was about 64-percent.

“Roughly 75-percent of our homicides occur in South Bend,” Cotter stated. “I am hopeful our solvability rate will remain the same. I am hopeful that we will hold, be able to hold those individuals accountable. I just know what we ‘ve got now, and so, it makes it hard for me personally and I think hard for me thinking of the community to think that we won’t be working together as closely as we have been.”

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