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Vigil Draws Attention to Skyrocketing KC Murder Rate

Monique Willis with son Alonzo Thomas IV, who was killed on Apr. 5, 2014. (Monique Willis)
Monique Willis with son Alonzo Thomas IV, who was killed on Apr. 5, 2014. (Monique Willis)
July 27, 2017

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Kansas City has recorded nearly 90 murders in 2017 - an increase of more than 50 percent over this time a year ago.

With the disturbing numbers as a backdrop, loved ones of the victims of unsolved murders are planning a vigil this weekend to draw awareness to those cases and to offer their insights. Monique Willis' only son, 20-year-old Alonzo Thomas, was shot to death in 2014. His killer has not been caught.

Willis said the rising number of homicide cases has only served to normalize the tragedies.

"People kind of forget about the crimes that may have happened one and two, three and four, five or six years ago,” Willis said. "And they may be getting swept under the rug, but it's possible that their killers are still on the street doing these current crimes, right now."

Sunday evening's Vigil for Unsolved Murders will be held in Independence, Missouri, where family and friends of homicide victims are encouraged to bring pictures, poster-boards and information about their cases. Willis said her organization, Momma On a Mission Incorporated, also gives families a chance to share their insights about how to negotiate the criminal justice system.

Willis said she wishes that no other mother would have to go through the pain she's endured. But if it happens, it's important to advocate on behalf of the person who was killed.

"Once you speak up to the police, you have to continue to go through with the prosecuting attorney's office and going to court, and going to trial,” she explained.

Kansas City's murder rate is lower, per capita, than it was at its height in the early 1990s, but it is now nearing a 20-year high. Local authorities and neighborhood groups have cited easy access to guns and crimes of retribution as potential causes for the spike.

The vigil will be held on Sunday, July 30, from 6:00-9:00 p.m. at 3907 S. Crackerneck Rd. in Independence.

Kevin Patrick Allen, Public News Service - MO