GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - For the first time in a year, Gulfport’s police chief and his top investigators answered key questions on the record about five baffling unsolved murder cases.
Those murders all happened in less than two weeks a year ago this month.
On February 24, 2019, Demeatrius Blakely was found shot to death on the side of the road.
Then on March 1, Eric Harris was fatally shot in a shed and became the fifth person to be killed in a 13-day span. Following each of the murders, Gulfport Police went into action.
“I was thinking y’all are going to beat the breaks off of us if we don’t solve them in an hour like on TV,” said Police Chief Leonard Papania.
A year later none of the people responsible for the five deaths are behind bars. Donica Lewis, a friend of Demeatrius Blakely said he was supposed to cook for her daughter’s birthday party, but he didn’t get the chance. Just around the corner from Lewis’ apartment, Blakely was discovered shot to death near the corner of 43rd Ave. and 11th St.
“He (Demeatrius Blakely) was a good person and I just don’t understand why they did that to him,” said Lewis.
Investigators haven’t named a suspect in Blakely’s death and are still looking for leads.
“He lived nearby, had family nearby and they really gave no indication as to why someone would do this to him,” said Detective Lt. Samuel Jewell.
The picture of what happened to Frederick Plummer just a block off of Highway 49 is more clear. The U.S. Marshalls are actively searching for Eli Medina who witnesses said attacked Plummer with a machete, following an argument.
Leila Lizana was arrested in Texas earlier this year and charged with accessory after the fact in Plummer’s murder. Gulfport Police Lt. Samuel Jewell said Medina and Lizana were on the run together. Now with Lizana in custody, authorities believe they are closer to locating Medina.
“Any information that she provided about their movements after the crime was passed on to the U.S. Marshalls Service in hopes that it may assist them,” said Jewell.
If arrested, Medina would face first-degree murder charges.
Within sight of Central Elementary School, across Pass Road, multiple gunshots were fired at a duplex. When police arrived they found Maxwell Phillips dead in the yard and Brooklyn Alsobrook dead inside.
“We believe this one was intentional that whoever went there, went there to hurt these people or at least one of them,” said Detective Sgt. Clay Fulks.
Witnesses told police they saw two men running from the scene, but no other description of the possible suspects in the murder of Alsobrook and Phillips has been provided.
Eric Harris lost his life to a gunshot wound in a shed behind a home on 26th Street. Although a suspect hasn’t been identified, police think Harris likely knew his killer.
“When you walk into scenes like that often times you can tell there are clear signs of an altercation, and there were none there,” said Jewell.
Even though five people were killed in less than a two-week span in locations separated by just three miles, according to Chief Leonard Papania, there are no indications the crimes are connected and the evidence points to each being isolated incidents.
“Certainly anybody who’s willing to kill another human being is always somebody to worry about,” said Papania. “Do I think we have murderers out there who are going to randomly attack people, no nothing from any of these lead me to believe that.”
People who know information about each crime are needed to come forward, but Papania says getting information concerning deadly incidents can be challenging.
“There’s sometimes where the activities that proceeded the death were such that people don’t want to reveal that to law enforcement, not necessarily that they were a part of or a cause of the death, but they were participating in things they just don’t want law enforcement to know,” said Papania.
Although the murder cases are a year old, Papania and his department aren’t giving up on their hunt for a break in each case.
“The reality is we have to work with what we’re given, and we have to do it in a manner that will stand the test of a courtroom,” said Papania.
Police are asking for any information about the circumstances surrounding the deaths of these five victims.
Thursday night at 10 p.m., WLOX News will dig deeper into the murder of 18-year old Brooklyn Alsobrook and hear from her family on their quest for justice.