As victims’ families hope for justice, about 40% of Memphis murders in last two years still unsolved

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Since 2017, the number of murders in Memphis has increased each year, and many of those go unsolved.

The innocent smile of her 8-month-old boy is the only thing that keeps Brittany Hervery going most days.

"This the best part, that I got him to live on with now that his father is not here," Hervery said.

Hervery's boyfriend, Samuel Toney, was murdered four months ago. She's still processing his death.

She's is reminded of him every day by their son.

"It's not fair, and to hear your son say 'dada,' and he's not here," Hervery said. "He was with me every step of the way through the whole pregnancy, when I had him. We enjoyed life together for four months with our son."

Memphis Police said Toney was killed at the Hillview Village apartments last September. So far, no one's been arrested.

"I want answers," Hervery said. "It's going unnoticed. I want somebody to understand how I feel and how we feel as a family to lose a loved one."

The loss, loneliness, and overwhelming responsibility of raising their child alone makes it that much harder for Hervery to deal with the heartbreaking reality: he's never coming home.

"My last interaction with him was kiss my son, and, 'I will see ya'll later,'" Hervery said. "And later on wasn't later on because I got a phone call saying he was shot, and that's devastating, very devastating."

Sadly, that pain has devastated hundreds of local families in just the past two years.

Memphis Police reported 557 people were murdered from 2017 through 2019. Of those cases, 222 remain unsolved — about 40%.

About 40% of Memphis murders since 2017 remain unsolved as families hold out hope for eventual justice.

For a grieving family, one unsolved murder is too many.

"I can't sleep sometimes thinking about could we get justice, will we get justice, will there be any justice at all?" Hervery said.

Memphis Police have 22 sergeants on their homicide unit. They've increased staffing to keep up with the increasing murder rate.

But when leads don't come in, and the case goes cold, investigators are forced to have difficult conversations with the family members left behind.

"We just have to reassure them that we're not going to stop until we get that killer and get that closure, but it's really tough," said Maj. Chris Moffatt with the MPD Homicide Bureau.

A case is considered a cold case if a year passes and there's still no new information.

"If we don't solve a case, we never stop, and there's always somebody out there who may know," Moffatt said. "There may be one lead that we didn't see at the initial investigation."

While the waiting is tough, police said posting reminders on social media and pushing CrimeStoppers does, on occasion, lead to justice.

"There was a case of a 2-year-old that was killed, Laylah Washington, and the case stalled out with no new information, but a year and a half later, we got a CrimeStoppers tip and that led to solving that crime," Moffatt said.

As Toney's family reflects on the outgoing, spontaneous family man he was, they have hope that one day, they'll become one of the families that also sees justice.

"We've got a lot of fathers, but we don't have a lot of them in their kids lives, and he was one that was in his kids life," Hervery said. "I believe every person that was responsible for whatever happened, whatever reason they felt to take away his life, that we're going to get justice. I believe we're going to get justice."

They're holding out hope because the alternative leaves victims' families facing a lifetime of disappointment and despair.

If you have any information that can help police in any of these cases, call CrimeStoppers at 901-528-CASH.

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