INDIANAPOLIS — The Marion County Prosecutor issued a press release today touting its conviction of William Jenkins for the 2019 murder of Yolanda Moffitt-Santiago even though there was only surveillance camera audio, no video of the fatal gunshot, only cell phone records to prove Jenkins was in the vicinity when the murder occurred and witnesses who saw the couple arguing before the killing.
Domestic violence victim advocates and gun violence analysts only wish MCPO were as diligent about pursuing charges against other gun homicide suspects with even more evidence.
”I would like to think that Indiana as a gun loving state would be especially careful to keep those people who are not proper people to carry a firearm to enjoy that privilege that Indiana allows us to use so freely that they would be especially circumspect so that the rest of us remain safe because there are so many firearms around and its so easy to get one and to use it and to carry it lawfully,” said IU Law School Professor Jody Madeira.
Fox 59 News has reviewed four gun homicide cases since last November in which the Marion County Prosecutors Office has not yet pursued criminal charges.
On November 1st, Maxine Congress was sitting in a woman’s car at East 40th Street and North Emerson Avenue when her friend’s ex-boyfriend and his new girlfriend pulled up, stepped out of their vehicle and a witness told police he saw the man shoot at the car that contained Congress.
She died of a gunshot wound and while the suspect, Frederic Pipes, was arrested for murder, prosecutors dropped the case after he and his girlfriend blamed each other for using her gun to fire the fatal shot.
”Firearms are used very frequently in domestic violence cases,” said Kelly McBride, Executive Director of the Domestic Violence Network. “I serve on the Domestic Violence Fatality Review Team and we know that in over 85% of domestic violence homicides, a gun is used in those cases.”
The first gun homicide of 2023 in Marion County occurred in the 2400 block of West Arlington Court on Jan. 2. James Martin, 15, died of a gunshot wound after a firearm that was being cleaned by his father went off. Prosecutors agreed that the shooting was accidental and Martin’s father was not charged with any lesser counts, even a criminal recklessness misdemeanor or neglect of a dependent.
”If we do not charge people who accidentally inflict serious bodily harm or death upon another, does not mean to shoot them but still is reckless with a firearm, and we don’t charge something for example like criminal recklessness, then that sets a very poor example and others see that there’s no repercussions for such casual handling of a weapon,” said Madeira.
Three weeks later, in the 3800 block of Mill Crossing Drive, Jodessa Cooper, 53, was found fatally wounded in the front seat of her boyfriend’s SUV.
When he was questioned, just before his arrest for reckless homicide, David Ross, Sr., 51, admitted Cooper was shot as they struggled over control of the gun.
Prosecutors dropped the charge, citing a lack of evidence to justify the criminal count.
”When you don’t have an eyewitness in the case and the only eyewitness is deceased, you only have one word against the other then, yes, that could be an excuse that would be used,” said McBride.
This past Monday morning, David Brinker told police he was arguing with his wife Dorothy when she jumped into his pickup truck to drive away from their eastside home and he reached inside the vehicle window to stop her and the gun in his hand went off, killing the woman.
The Marion County Prosecutors Office said it is still trying to determine if Brinker will be charged.
“If we’re not going after these cases, it speaks to a disregard for women that also speaks to a naivete with respect to links to domestic violence instances and those that are likely to be violent with weapons in the future and I think it would be incumbent upon every prosecutor to especially pursue those cases,” said Madeira. ”And it seems to me that if we’re going to release press releases on cases about murder convictions that are obtained with circumstantial evidence, then politically and for public safety it demands an expedient prosecution of cases where there is eyewitness testimony.
”Certain counties in Indiana have let these issues slip either because they don’t want to send a certain political message that they’re taking away or infringing on Second Amendment rights or because they believe it might be too difficult or lead to political difficulties with future elections and I do think those concerns are in the back of the prosecutor’s minds as they look at what crimes to charge and what offenses to pursue.”
Beyond indicating the Brinker case was still under consideration, MCPO did not respond to inquiries regarding the other cases though, in the past, prosecutors have said each case is different and presents its own unique set of challenges.