Two law enforcement departments in Rutherford County saw an increase in homicides in 2018, even as the state experienced an 8 percent decrease in murders, a new crime report says.
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation recently released its 2018 “Crime in Tennessee” report, using data gathered from local departments.
There was one murder in La Vergne in 2018, down from two in 2017, the TBI said.
The one murder in La Vergne was the much-publicized April 30 shooting of Yudjy Cherubin, a 17-year-old who tried to buy a cell phone but was robbed, Chief Mike Walker said. A 17-year-old suspect was charged in that case, Walker said.
The Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office saw a spike in homicides, from two in 2017 to six in 2018, the TBI said.
Five of the homicides happened in two well-publicized domestic violence incidents eight days apart, Det. Todd Sparks said. One of those was a Memorial Day shooting that left three victims and the gunman dead, officials said at the time.
Often in murder cases, the victim and suspect know one another, Sparks said. However, in the remaining county homicide, that was not the case, he said.
In February 2018, the family of Katelyn Elizabeth Ervin, 26, reported her missing, the RCSO said. Det. Steve Craig worked the case and later arrested a suspect, Ellis Lee Bell, 35, of Nashville, Sparks said.
Bell was charged with attempted aggravated burglary, aggravated burglary, especially aggravated robbery, especially aggravated kidnapping, aggravated rape, felony murder, first-degree murder, possession of a weapon by a convicted felon, possession of a weapon during a dangerous felony, employment of a weapon during a dangerous felony, the RCSO said. His trial is pending.
The RSCO said Bell allegedly broke into Ervin’s home on Feb. 27, 2018, stealing weapons and kidnapping her.
In an RCSO statement last year, Craig said, “Ellis Bell drove her to a remote location where he shot her and left her for dead.”
Her body was found March 6.
Last fall, Sparks told the Murfreesboro Post that the sheriff’s office normally handles one or even no homicides in a given year. The Memorial Day shooting was the first triple homicide he has experienced in 24 years with the RCSO, he said at the time. Det. Britt Reed said officials could not determine if the spike in cases was due to the population increase or if it was an anomaly.
Murder in Murfreesboro
Murfreesboro experienced 11 murders in 2018, up from five in 2017, the TBI said.
One of the most high-profile murders in Murfreesboro in 2018 was the Sept. 1 shooting of Michael Roper, a former running back and key player in Oakland High School’s run to the state football semifinals in 2017. He was shot and killed during an apparent argument after a party, according to a Murfreesboro Post story at the time. A suspect in the case later turned himself in, the story said.
Senior safety Jalen Locklayer, who is a starter for the Patriots, was shot and injured.
In another case, the Murfreesboro Police Department last May reported that it responded to a fatal shooting at InTowne Suites on Old Fort Parkway. A 37-year-old woman had been shot, a newspaper story at the time said. Her boyfriend was arrested in the case, the story said.
MPD Chief Michael Bowen issued a statement about the 2018 homicides. The statement mentioned 12 homicides, one more than the TBI reported:
“One homicide is one too many. Murfreesboro is, however, a growing city and although there are more reported incidents of overall crime, the rate of total incidents reported per 10,000 residents has shown a decrease over the past ten years. These current figures are based on US Census population estimates.”
“In 2018, there were twelve (12) reported homicides. Ten (10) of these cases resulted in arrests, one (1) was determined to be a justifiable homicide and one case remains open. In comparison, there were five (5) reported homicides in 2017, all resulting in arrests. In 2016 there were eight (8) reported homicides, 2015 there were five (5) and in 2014 there were eight (8) incidents with ten victims. The vast majority of this incidents involve a victim and suspect who knew each other directly or were connected through a third party.”
“Drug use continues to be a common factor involving many of the reported homicides. We will continue to focus our resources, including those from our Special Investigations Division, on drug related issues in our community.”
Smyrna experienced two murders in 2018, the same number as the previous year, the TBI said.
One murder case in Smyrna involved the July 27 murder of Robert Wilson in the parking lot of the Uptown Suites Hotel on President Place, after an argument over the alleged mistreatment of a dog, a Murfreesboro Post story at the time said. A suspect in that case later turned himself in.