Calhoun County is halfway through 2019 and has seen four homicides since the beginning of the year — nearly half the number of homicides reported at this point last year.
Out of the four this year, police reported, three have been solved. Calhoun County sheriff’s deputies were working as of last month to identify and locate a second suspect connected with the shooting death of Racha Dawkins, of South Carolina, who died outside of Anniston and Oxford.
Oxford police Chief Bill Partridge said he couldn’t say for certain what those numbers would look like by the end of the year, but he liked what they indicated.
“They look good, and I hope they continue to trend the way they’re heading,” Partridge said.
Jacksonville police Chief Marcus Wood said the recent opening of the East Metro Area Crime Center in Oxford and a recent partnership between Anniston, Oxford and federal authorities may be factors in why the numbers appear to be dropping.
“I think all of the chiefs and the sheriff, we do very, very well at working together,” Wood said.
Of the 2019 homicides, police said, half were committed by a relative of the victims. Anniston police Capt. Nick Bowles said the perpetrator and the victim in most homicides aren’t always family, but it’s common that they know each other.
“I haven’t seen many homicides fall out of domestic violence, love or narcotics,” Bowles said. “Murder is a very personal act, so random murders are rare.”
In Anniston, Bowles said, which has been repeatedly ranked as one of the most violent cities in the state and the nation, reducing the city’s violent crime rate is a priority for police.
“No one wants to be known as the most violent city in Alabama,” Bowles said. “We’re all working to become the Model City again.”
Here are the details about the four homicides, as well as the status of the investigations of those deaths:
— Infant Kahlia Gordon was fatally shot in the head by her father, Trenton Gordon, 23, on March 31 in the driveway of her grandparents’ Ohatchee home before he turned the gun on himself. Calhoun County sheriff’s deputies said Trenton Gordon had taken the 6-month-old girl March 29 and was taking her to her mother March 31 when Gordon and the baby’s maternal relatives got into an altercation. Deputies said Gordon shot the baby at the edge of the driveway before stepping into the street and shooting himself in the head. The baby’s mother had filed a protection order against Gordon in February, and relatives claimed she made plans to leave him for good he weekend of Kahlia’s death.
— Piedmont police were called April 9 to a home in Piedmont after 40-year-old Joseph Solomon Nicholas Haywood was shot to death. Police identified the suspect as Haywood’s brother-in-law, Jessie James Beecham, whose sister was married to Haywood. Police said Beecham and Haywood had gotten into an argument at their shared home when Beecham shot Haywood in the chest. Beecham was booked into jail and released days later. On May 6, Beecham waived his preliminary hearing and his case was sent to a grand jury.
— Alvaro Alvarez, 24, of Ashland was charged by Anniston police with murder the day 23-year-old Courtney Horton succumbed to gunshot wounds. Anniston police said they were called around 7:30 p.m. May 5 to Taco Bell in the 2100 block of Quintard Avenue and found Horton suffering from numerous gunshot wounds. Horton was taken to a nearby hospital, where he was pronounced dead early the next morning. Alvarez was arrested at the Anniston police station that afternoon after police had questioned him. Alvarez opted in June to waive his preliminary hearing.
— Racha Dawkins, 32, of Enoree, S.C., was found shot to death June 6 in a mobile home outside of Oxford and Anniston and Alberto Isordia Santos, 23, of Kingsburg, Calif., was found suffering from gunshot wounds on a nearby street. Deputies said witnesses reported hearing gunshots and seeing one person running from the trailer and another driving away. Santos was taken to a Birmingham hospital, where he was served with an arrest warrant for murder. He was booked June 14 into jail with bond set at $1 million. His preliminary hearing, initially scheduled for Monday, was reset for July 12.
Bowles said he wanted to remind the community that there are better options than to commit murder, and urged people to talk to someone if they think of committing a violent crime.
“No matter what their situation is, there is a better option than going out and taking someone’s life,” Bowles said. “It’s a very final act when you take that final step.”
Wood said he expects the number of homicides to drop over the years as police continue to do what they’ve been doing — working to keep people safe.
“Will we be able to completely get rid of crime? No, that’s just the nature of the beast,” Wood said. “I think we’re working to be as perfect as possible.”