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RPD launches site for cold cases 

click to enlarge Founder of Young and Gifted Global Ministries Sherita Traywick.

PHOTO BY GINO FANELLI

Founder of Young and Gifted Global Ministries Sherita Traywick.

The Rochester Police Department on Thursday launched a website that will eventually catalog the department’s 554 unsolved homicides dating to 1969 in an effort to close the cold cases.

The website, RochesterNYunsolved.com, contains a searchable database of victims, with brief descriptions of the location, date of death, and manner of death alongside links to relevant news articles about the victims.

About 100 cases were available on the site upon its launch, with more to be added over time.

In announcing the initiative, interim Police Chief Cynthia Herriott-Sullivan said the goal was to bring closure to families who lost loved ones to violence. She credited members of the grassroots violence prevention group Roc the Peace with the idea for the site. The group’s founder, Sirena Cotton, lost her son Christopher Jones in a still-unsolved shooting in 2007.

“We put our heads together and decided to push this forward,” Herriott-Sullivan said. “When we left that meeting, I remember telling Sirena Cotton we were going to do this if I have to pay for it myself.”

Captain Frank Umbrino specified that cold cases are defined not by how long ago the crime occured but by those in which all available leads have been exhausted without an arrest and subsequent prosecution.

“It’s frustrating, because although in the vast majority of cases we may know who did it, being able to prove this in front of a jury is an extremely difficult task,” Umbrino said.

The most recent case in the database is that of Jordan Coleman, a 16-year-old who was shot and killed on Clifford Avenue in March. The oldest is Jose Bas, who was shot while working at his convenience store on Conkey Avenue in November, 1972.

Bas’s granddaughter, Arleen Hyland, said she and her mother, Milda Bas, are still seeking answers.

“We’re not giving up, we want this solved, and it’s up to the community to call and give tips, anything you can provide to solve this case,” Hyland said. “It still hurts. We need closure.”

Genora Wilder is also searching for closure. Her son, Jason Wilder, was beaten to death on Clinton Avenue in 2019 after she said he was mistakenly thought to be part of an altercation happening on the street. He left behind a daughter who is now 13.

“Somebody knows something,” Wilder said. “It was July, a nice summer night on a corner where there’s a store and a barber shop. I was told there were 20 to 30 people out that night on that corner watching this altercation.”

Rochester has seen 2,197 homicides since 1969, according to police, and Umbrino said about a quarter of them remain unsolved. That clearance rate of roughly 75 percent is above the national average, which the FBI pegged at 62 percent in 2018.

While the goal of the site is to solicit tips from the community, it also serves as a tool to keep hope alive. The site features a family forum that allows relatives of the deceased to offer information about their loved ones and connect with people also coping with loss.

Pastor Sherita Traywick, founder of community outreach group Young and Gifted Global Ministries, has previously partnered with Roc the Peace on so-called “cold case walks.” Those walks include praying at the site of a murder and gives the opportunity for parents or other family members to speak about their loved one.

“After that we walk around the community with flyers and we’re just asking people do you know anything, do you know this case?” Traywick said. “...We’re not going to bring the children back, but we are going to keep their memory alive, and we need the community to speak up. We need the community to know that even though it’s been 13 years, we have not forgotten DaMarri (Shaw), we have not forgotten Brent (Coley), we have not forgotten Jason (Wilder).”

Gino Fanelli is a CITY staff writer. He can be reached at (585) 775-9692 or gino@rochester-citynews.com.

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