Investigators say missing evidence after Katrina hurts some cold case murders

By Danielle Thomas - bio | email

WAVELAND, MS (WLOX) - A capital murder charge against a Gulfport man has sparked interest in a cold case. ON Monday, Gulfport police charged 42-year-old John Paul Necaise with killing 78-year-old Frank Roberts. The family of 79-year-old Floyd Price is troubled by this recent development. Price turned up missing in early 2004 and was later declared dead. A relative told WLOX that on the day he disappeared Price wrote a sizeable check to John Necaise.

A Hancock County Sheriff's investigator said he is looking into possible connections between Necaise and Price, yet admits losing most of the evidence to hurricane Katrina is a major setback.

Today Danielle Thomas talked to another law enforcement agency that saw its cold case evidence to the storm.

Back in 2001 a mother and her son were found murdered at Kim's Oriental Spa on Highway 90 in Waveland. In time, the case surrounding the deaths of 54-year-old Hwan Kim of Bay St. Louis and 35-year-old Joon Kim went cold. Then a few years later, Hurricane Katrina dealt another blow to this unsolved murder.

Chief James Varnell said "We lost every bit of evidence that we did have. As you know it was a one story building. Nine and a half feet of water so it destroyed every bit of evidence that we had. We had a couple of old murder cases that were affected. That we had on the books that were still being investigated.

Chief James Varnell says now Waveland investigators don't even have a starting point for the 2001 double murder or another cold case murder that dates back to the '80s. Varnell says the department did gain an invaluable lesson.

"In the future, we won't let that happen again,"said Chief Varnell. "We'll move whatever evidence we have in felony crimes to a much safer spot this time. I think everybody understands that we need to move if it's an ordered evacuation. We need to move everything out."

District Attorney Cono Carana said "Things that we tried before the storm I think they listen to a bit more now. The need to get things up to the crime lab very speedily instead of letting something stay in your evidence locker for a period of time longer than absolutely necessary. You need to get them up there and get that evidence processed and then if you lose that evidence, you have those reports you can proceed with your case."

Waveland police say Katrina may have made their job more difficult, but it won't stop them from looking for who ever is responsible for these murders.

"We had actively worked on both of those cases even up into the hurricane, we were still getting information on both those cases," said Chief Varnell.

District Attorney Cono Carana says there were very few cases in Stone, Harrison, and Hancock counties that had to be dismissed because of evidence destroyed in the storm and only one was a felony. The rest had duplicate documents in other locations.