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LRPD homicide detectives dealing with heavy case load

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LITTLE ROCK (KATV) - Police have been lucky this year, solving 24 of 29 homicides so far in 2014.

But of 173 murders over the last five years, 42 remain unsolved, making the caseload for Little Rock homicide detectives even greater.

The major crimes/homicide unit has only eight detectives - each detective with at least one case sitting on their desk, with hundreds of pages of documentation in each file.

Even resolved cases remain as detectives work to make sure those who they arrested are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

But five cases glare in red on the detective's whiteboard, one including a case from the July 4th weekend - the murder of Marco Avila.

Four days after the fact, detectives still peruse the area around his Victoria Drive home, trying to find clues on the case.

"We probably won't find anything, but we just try to find witnesses, try to find people that saw it, somebody that will talk to us and tell us what they saw," said Detective Greg Siegler.

Siegler said gunfire is common - many people don't look or choose not to look so they don't have to get involved with the investigation.

Another detective said sometimes those who saw something won't even say anything because they don't want to be seen talking to police.

In the case of Marco Avila, 21, most neighbors thought it was just fireworks going off and didn't bother to check what was going on.

No snitching is another issue, and it's an issue LRPD will continue to face as 2014 drags on - eight murders ahead of where the city was this time last year.

"You'd be surprised at the number of people that actually sees things and we may not find out for another three or four months that they actually saw something," said Lt. Glenn King, homicide unit commander.

King said many "witnesses" will use what they "know" as leverage on their own criminal case, trying to cut a deal with police.

It's why detectives don't share much information with the press following a homicide to make sure those who say they witnessed something actually witnessed something.

King said it is possible for those looking to "make a deal," are sometimes right on the money and can help close a case, but mentions how disheartening it is because these witnesses hold onto the information until it works for them.

An uncooperative community is why King said those 42 homicide cases remain unsolved in Little Rock over the last five years - four in 2010, 11 in 2011, 11 in 2012, 11 in 2013 and five unsolved so far this year.

It's an even bigger burden on the homicide unit now after the department consolidated its cold case unit last year.

That consolidation has the potential to skew priorities.

"If we get one tonight, it's going to take precedence over the one that happened three years ago," said King, adding that it could even take precedence over a case that's currently being investigated.

Police say they have received zero phone calls regarding the Avila case; they typically at least receive a few.

If you have any information regarding the shooting death of 21-year-old Marco Avila, you're urged to call LRPD Homicide Detectives at (501) 371-4660.