Pierce County’s larger law enforcement agencies investigated more homicides in 2015 than the year before, but arrests were made in all but four cases.
Pierce County sheriff’s detectives investigated 16 deaths in their jurisdiction and resolved 14. Two homicide cases in Parkland remain unsolved.
In Tacoma, police made arrests in 15 of the city’s 16 homicides for the year.
Puyallup police solved their three homicide cases, and Lakewood police made an arrest in one of their two cases.
Investigators said the high clearance rates were mostly due to old-fashioned police work.
“Day in and day out, it’s the detectives going out and foraging for leads and digging through for the little details,” Tacoma police Detective Dan Davis said.
That’s what they’re doing in the only case still open from last year, the Nov. 3 fatal shooting of Steven Speakman, 26, in Tacoma’s Hilltop neighborhood.
Known as the heart of the Hill, Speakman, who had the intellectual capacity of a 10-year-old, was found dead two blocks from where he lived.
“The Steven Speakman homicide is on people’s minds,” Davis said. “We really want to solve that.”
Tacoma officials said they’re proud of the department’s continued high rate for solving homicides, which remained steady at 93 percent the last two years.
Nationwide, the clearance rate for homicides is 64.1 percent, according to the FBI.
Puyallup police were the only agency in Pierce County to boast a 100 percent clearance rate, making arrests in three homicides.
Detectives worked the fatal stabbing of Carol Young, 57, in December and arrested her live-in boyfriend.
Days later, they arrested a man who accidentally shot 18-year-old Sabrena DeFreece as they were sitting in his bedroom listening to music.
Their first homicide in 2015 happened in August when a man fatally shot 71-year-old Richard Johnson after he confronted the gunman for prowling his pickup truck.
That started a shooting spree in which more than a dozen people were fired at and 13 houses were hit with bullets before police pinned the shooter beneath a patrol car.
In 2014, Puyallup police had one homicide, which they solved.
The Pierce County Sheriff’s Department also was above the national homicide clearance rate last year at 87.5 percent. That’s a smidge higher than its 2014 rate, when detectives solved 13 of 15 homicides.
Arrests were made in 14 of the department’s 16 homicides last year. Both unsolved cases were in Parkland.
On May 25, Daniel Dunn was found on fire outside a business in the 15000 block of Pacific Avenue South. Investigators believe somebody lit the homeless man on fire.
Dunn suffered burns over 60 percent of his body and eventually died of his them.
In April, 20-year-old Daniel Mosley was shot in the head while driving home from his girlfriend’s house on Ainsworth Avenue South.
Detectives said he was targeted but don’t know why. Mosley was a shy pizza deliveryman who had never been in trouble and spent most of his time with his family and girlfriend.
Only Lakewood’s clearance rate — 50 percent — was below the national average, but its overall homicide numbers continue to fall, which police said they’re proud of.
“It’s a barometer for how well we’re doing police work that our homicides have dropped off,” Lt. Chris Lawler said.
In 2015, Lakewood police investigated three homicides and solved one. They still are looking for information in the Aug. 27 fatal stabbing of Daniel Guerin, 36, at Seeley Lake Park.
One of the homicides they solved — the accidental shooting of 13-year-old Alexander Demello near Joint Base Lewis-McChord — was not in their jurisdiction, but they volunteered to take it.
Their other case involved the fatal shooting of Mindy Lynn Hughes, 26, on June 6. Her boyfriend was arrested, although he contended the death was an accident.
Stacia Glenn: 253-597-8653