MILWAUKEE -- Oftentimes, murder investigations are shrouded in secrecy - and for good reason! Police need to be able to question witnesses and examine evidence without the man or woman they're hunting down catching on. That's why, a behind-the-scenes look like the one FOX6 News got with the Milwaukee Police Department's Homicide Unit is so rare.
Milwaukee police, in a good year, will handle about 70 murder cases, and in a bad year, dozens more. Resolving these cases usually requires constantly confronting questionable characters, gazing at gut wrenching evidence, and doing so with the high-pressure of the public, the press and the prosecutor's office looking on.
When Milwaukee Police Department's Homicide Unit arrives on the scene of a murder, the bullet-ridden body is usually gone, but the crime scene tape sealed street, and the heavy police presence remains.
"These cases don't solve themselves as quickly as portrayed on TV,"
Timothy Graham is a detective with the Milwaukee Police Department. He worked to shed light on what happened near 5th and Orchard on Milwaukee's south side. "It started out as a shooting scene that ultimately ended up as a homicide," Detective Graham said.
Once witnesses were questioned, family members were notified and every bit of evidence was carefully collected. Very few people see what comes next.
Detective Graham showed FOX6 News how he and other detectives with MPD's Homicide Unit spent hours analyzing evidence at the scene. Detective Graham says this is a relatively contained scene.
Next was a trip back to the main police station downtown. Detective Graham's partner, Detective Dennis Devalkenaere rode in the front passenger seat of the squad car. "We'll compare notes and see what witnesses saw what, and who said what, to try to formulate a motive for this," Detective Devalkenaere said.
Inside the police station, with evidence in hand, Detective Graham and the rest of the second-shift detectives settled into their offices.
This is not like what's often seen on TV, with one or two superstar detectives working on a case.
MPD has about eight detectives who began to try to figure out who killed 21-year-old Louis Perez. Police believed Perez may be tied to a gang. The team believed Perez may have been gunned down by rival gang members, following a dispute with an ex-girlfriend.
Detective Devalkenaere worked with a uniform officer in the gang unit to put together a photo array to show to one of the eyewitnesses. They at first thought the evidence pointed to one man, but had to be fair in the way they prepared the pictures.
"The computer automatically brings up 500 people who have similar characteristics to the target of the array and then I go in and pick individuals who best look like our suspect," Detective Devalkenaere said.
Detective Devalkenaere took the eyewitness into a room to show him the finished photo array. Unfortunately, that witness was unable to identify the shooter, so detectives must press on.
Detective Graham, Detective Devalkenaere and the others eventually passed the baton to the unit's third shift, briefing those detectives on every aspect of the murder. "The smallest little detail can make or break a case when it comes to homicide, and you have to be really cognizant of that,"
Eight hours later, third shift briefed first shift, and soon enough, it's back to the guys who were originally on the case.
Lt. Nicole Davila says the unit also balances active unsolved homicides. "Every day you're reviewing them. Either the work that needs to be done or something that has developed, so they're always in your mind," Lt. Davila said.
Because crime doesn't sleep, neither can the police.
Later, in a court room, sometimes days, weeks or even years after the crime scene hits the local news, a suspect faces a judge.
In the Perez case, detectives zeroed in on Julian Rosario. Rosario is charged with first degree intentional homicide.
According to detectives, Rosario was in a car with the victim's ex-girlfriend. They had gone to pick up her stuff at Perez's home, and when Perez came back, he pulled out a small, silver handgun that didn't fire.
Rosario allegedly hopped out of his car, and began shooting.
It took days of digging by detectives to crack this case and Lt. Thomas Stigler explained how detectives will follow up as Rosario or anyone charged for that matter, will make their way through the legal system.
"We really put a lot of stress on ourselves to try and figure out who did it and then bring them before a prosecutor,"
Members of MPD's Homicide Unit say the hardest cases for them to handle are cases involving kids.