IMPD Cold Case Squad wins conviction in 2008 murder

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – At a time when IMPD is struggling to solve 40 percent of the murders that happen in the city, the Cold Case Squad scored a rare victory in gaining a conviction this week for a 2008 killing.

Darrin Shores will be sentenced Dec. 20 for the murder of Thomas Johnson.

It took a tip from a federal prison inmate willing to talk that led Sgt. Dave Ellison to a woman who recalled seeing Shores and Johnson at the Rosewood Commons Apartments on Indianapolis’ northwest side on Thanksgiving morning of 2008.

“She saw the suspect leave the apartment with the gun and she heard the shot and the suspect came back in and said, ‘I got his (expletive).’”

Johnson was discovered mortally wounded trying to escape in his truck which crashed into a guardrail elsewhere in the complex.

The holiday morning of the murder, the original IMPD detective was thwarted by a lack of eyewitnesses to the killing, but through due diligence, he had assembled phone records that, more than eight years later, led Ellison to a suburb of Atlanta and the front door of Darrin Shores.

“So in March of this year I went to interview him and when I interviewed him he denied knowing the individual and he denied having that phone number that was so important and he also didn’t know where Rosewood Common Apartments was located,” said Ellison. “The original phone records showed that the victim’s last outgoing call was at 6:23 in the morning, just approximately 25 minutes before he was found. That last outgoing call actually went to the suspect who was being named.

“Searching through old records I was able to find police reports spanning a little over a year where he actually used that phone number claiming that was his. I also found a police report he made about a burglary where he lived inside Rosewood Commons in the same apartment where the new crime scene was.”

The eyewitness testimony, linked to Shores’ denial of Ellison’s evidence, led jurors to a guilty verdict nearly a decade after the case had gone cold.

“It is particularly gratifying that the family of Thomas Johnson will now have the finality of this conviction after nine years of uncertainty regarding the circumstance of his death,” said Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry.

Cindy Arney, the mother of Johnson’s two children, told FOX59 that she found the verdict “amazing” and praised the dogged work of IMPD and the prosecutor to bring her children justice.

Ellison attributed part of the success of this cold case conviction on the witness who agreed to testify years after the killing, even though IMPD had no funds to relocate and protect her.

“It actually probably delayed the case from being filed probably by three months because that’s one of the issues that we faced was making sure our witness had moved and was in a safe spot.”

The Hogsett Administration has identified $300,000 to establish a witness protection program in 2018.

City county councilors have not yet passed the ordinance establishing the program while its administration is yet to be determined.