Police officials told the Pine Bluff City Council on Monday that they will be making changes in an effort to keep the families of "cold case" missing persons and homicide victims better informed about the status of the investigations.
Police officials told the Pine Bluff City Council on Monday that they will be making changes in an effort to keep the families of “cold case” missing persons and homicide victims better informed about the status of the investigations.
Deputy Chief Kelvin Sergeant said that he will start making weekly phone calls to update the family of Cleashindra Hall, a Watson Chapel student who has been missing for 18 years.
“We’re going to meet regularly on Wednesdays,” Sergeant said. “Each Wednesday after we get together, I will give the Hall family myself a phone call to give them a weekly update on the status of what we have or have not accomplished in the case. Now these same things we’re establishing with the Hall case will also be applied to any other cold case that we start working [on].”
On March 29, police searched the home of Larry Amos. Hall worked for Amos at a home office at 5309 Faucett Road, the last place Hall was seen at age 18 before she disappeared May 9, 1994. In December 2011 and January 2012, detectives interviewed workers who had been inside the home doing remodeling work in the years since her disappearance. Their witness reports gave police enough evidence for a judge to grant a warrant to search the property.
On May 7, Hall’s mother Laurell Hall spoke before the City Council to tell them she was not satisfied with the progress in the case and that she had not heard from the police department in more than a month. In response, Police Chief Brenda Davis-Jones said the Hall family would be updated as soon as the forensic report was finished by the Arkansas State Crime Laboratory on the evidence collected during the search.
Davis-Jones said they called the Crime Lab every week to check on the progress with the report. It was later revealed that the evidence was not sent to the Crime Lab until May 8. Police officials have said an investigation has been launched into what caused the delay.
After Monday’s council meeting, Laurell Hall said she has not heard from Davis-Jones since a meeting they had on May 11 to discuss the evidence delay. Dismayed by what they felt was an insensitive attitude on the part of Davis-Jones, Hall said she and her husband left the meeting early.
Sergeant addressed the council Monday on the subject of cold cases because of a piece of proposed legislation sponsored by Alderman Steven Mays that was up for the council’s consideration. The proposal would have instructed the police administration to assign two or more officers to handle cold cases and to provide victims’ families with monthly updates on each case.
The proposal would have designated the Hall case as the first cold case to be investigated.
Mays first brought the proposed resolution before the City Council in early March, but tabled it after police officials said that a cold case unit was already in place.
Mays brought it back before the council Monday, this time with a few additions. He added a stipulation that Lt. Bob Rawlinson and Detective Jerry Lambert be assigned to the case and be left on the case until it is solved or all leads are exhausted. Rawlinson was removed from the case a week after the search of Amos’ house in what Alderman Thelma Walker has said was a retaliatory move by Davis-Jones. Davis-Jones has denied retaliating against Rawlinson. It is unclear if Lambert is still assigned to the case.
Mays’ proposal failed to get enough votes to pass. Mays and Walker voted in favor of the item. Alderman Irene Holcomb was absent.
Mayor Carl A. Redus Jr., Alderman Glen Brown and Alderman Bill Brumett said they did not think it was the council’s place to legislate how a department should handle its day-to-day operations.
“I just don’t want us to get in the position where we’re dictating to any department through something like legislation as to how they are to do their job,” Brumett said. “If they’re not doing their job, we need to find a way to get rid of them, change things, change policies — that’s what we can do.”
Brumett said, however, that he felt that attention to the Hall case from the council members and the public was putting pressure on the police department in a way that was resulting in some positive improvements. Brumett suggested that providing an update on cold cases should be added to the list of things that the police department reports to the City Council Public Safety Committee on a monthly basis. The public could also attend those meetings and ask questions, Brumett said.
Redus said he did not see any problem with that suggestion, but asked that it be cleared with police officials before it is implemented
Hall said after the council meeting that she could understand why the council wouldn’t want to get into the habit of legislating how police department investigations should be conducted, but she asked the aldermen to apply whatever pressure they can so that her daughter’s case is not forgotten. She said solving her daughter’s case is her main priority.
Sergeant and Davis-Jones told the council that a cold case unit has already been established — with two detectives assigned to investigate cold cases and two assigned specifically to the Hall case — but there was some disagreement about when this occurred. Sergeant said the chief approached him about establishing the unit six to eight weeks ago. Davis-Jones said it was six to eight months ago.
Pressed for details by Mays, Sergeant and Davis-Jones both agreed that it was “last year.”
“What’s the truth? Six months or six weeks?” Mays said.
“Don’t get to challenging me. … I’m going to tell you what I remember, OK? And it’s going to be the end of last year,” Sergeant said. “So Mr. Mays, don’t do me that way.”
“Sir, it’s just inappropriate to ask somebody what the truth is — Jesus,” Redus said.