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Homicides in 2023: Murders down 12 percent in Las Vegas

Updated February 3, 2024 - 6:32 pm

Katherine Patrick spends time every day in the room where she keeps the memories of her sons Aiden and Adrian Hyder alive, speaking to the containers that hold the boys’ ashes, asking why they had to leave.

“I’m still not OK,” said Patrick, 34. “I try to take it a day at a time.”

Aiden was 14 when he was shot dead at a party in North Las Vegas on May 21. No arrests have been made.

With Aiden’s death, Patrick became one of many in the Las Vegas Valley in 2023 whose lives were upended by the loss of a loved one to homicide.

For Patrick, compounding that loss was the death a few weeks later of Adrian, who was 15.

According to North Las Vegas police, Adrian was in a stolen 2021 Kia Forte that was speeding east on West Carey Avenue on June 10 when it hit a pickup truck, killing the driver as well as another 15-year-old boy who was also in the stolen car. On June 12, police said that Adrian had been driving the stolen vehicle, which Patrick disputes.

Now, she is a grieving mother who lost two of her four children in the span of about three weeks. The boys were inseparable, she said.

“He was lovable, kind, he’d give you the shirt off his back,” Patrick said of Aiden, adding the same about Adrian. “He didn’t deserve that. And I really just want justice for him.”

Aiden Hyder’s death was one of 233 homicides in Clark County in 2023, according to numbers provided by the coroner’s office. That figure is likely to rise as deaths in 2023 continue to be investigated, a coroner’s office spokesperson said.

There were 234 homicides in 2022, 247 in 2021, 204 in 2020, 149 in 2019, and 223 in 2018.

In 2023, Homicides were down in the Metropolitan Police Department’s jurisdiction, which includes Las Vegas and parts of Clark County.

They were up in North Las Vegas.

And they were up significantly in Henderson, but mainly because 2022 was a year for an unusually low homicide total.

And as the year progressed with what Metro’s top homicide cop noted was an increase in domestic violence-related killings, it ended with a spate of violence with multiple deaths in each incident.

Between Nov. 30 and Dec. 31, in addition to the deaths of two Nevada Highway Patrol troopers, allegedly by a drunk driver, there were the shootings of five homeless people, with two being killed; the UNLV shooting that left three professors dead, as well as the gunman; a murder-suicide in which a man killed a woman and two children; and a murderous carjacking spree that left two dead as well as the gunman, who was fatally shot by police.

Murders in Metro down 12 percent

There were 132 murders in the Metropolitan Police Department’s jurisdiction in 2023, compared with 150 murders in 2022, a drop of 12 percent, according to yearly homicide stats posted on Metro’s website.

It’s the continuation of a yearly decline in homicides in Las Vegas since 2021, which saw 158 murders. Before that, the pandemic year of 2020 saw 108 killings, while 2019 saw 90, according to Metro figures.

“We’re starting to see the numbers go back down, in line with what we saw before COVID,” said Metro Lt. Jason Johansson, who leads Metro’s homicide section.

Although the total number dropped, domestic violence-related homicides rose, Johansson said.

There were 33 domestic violence-related killings in 2023 and 24 in 2022, a rise of 38 percent, Johansson said.

Johansson said that in 2023, domestic violence-related deaths didn’t just involve spouses, partners, or exes, but also other family members including grown children.

This was seen in a Dec. 27 carjacking spree in which Justin Davidson, 36, killed his mother and another man, and in the June 27 killings of a woman, her boyfriend and a maintenance man. The woman’s grandson was arrested.

Johansson’s team, which includes 27 full-time detectives, six-part detectives, five sergeants, and two investigative specialists, responded to 164 homicides in 2023, he said.

Of that total, 29 of those cases were classified as justifiable killings, which means there was an aspect of self-defense.

Also included in the total yearly homicide numbers are cases in other jurisdictions covered by Metro homicide investigators. The 2023 totals included the killings of three professors at UNLV, which were in the University Police Services’ jurisdiction.

As of Jan. 11, Johansson said the solve rate for murders in 2023 was 85 percent, an “exceptional” number. It’s a number that continues to change as detectives continued to solve cases from 2023 after the year ended.

“There’s no one that, in my opinion, comes close to the number of scenes that we go on in a year, that can match our solve rates,” Johansson said. “And to me, it’s a testament to our department’s commitment to solving homicides.”

One case that stands out in Johansson’s mind was the February double-murder of a couple who had been living in a makeshift encampment behind an AutoZone store at 3290 S. Nellis Blvd., just north of East Desert Inn Road.

Vincent Spoto, 65, and Shella Huey, 46, had both been shot. In May, Huey’s sister, Shirl Huey, made a public appeal in a news conference for information that could help solve the killings.

“We’re going to need help from the public on that case,” Johansson said. “Someone knows something and someone’s not telling us it, and we just need more leads on that case.”

Another high-profile case was the shooting death of 26-year-old Las Vegas woman Tabatha Tozzi. The suspect, Tozzi’s then-boyfriend, Oswaldo Natanahel Perez-Sanchez, fled and hasn’t been caught, prompting criticism of police from Tozzi’s relatives and friends.

“The apprehension efforts were going on immediately, just, they were unable to locate,” Johansson said.

Killings in North Las Vegas rise

Jeremiah Wiggins still struggles to grasp the loss of his nephew, North Las Vegas teen Omarion Wilson. He still breaks down daily.

“He was really like a son to me,” Wiggins said. “And now, just knowing that I’ll never see him again, it’s just different. When I think about it, I’m still disbelief. I think about the things I didn’t get to do with him.”

Wilson, 17, was gunned down at a birthday party at a hotel at Flamingo Road and Koval Lane in March. A 15-year-old boy, Sin’cere Smith, has pleaded guilty to a charge of second-degree murder and is set to be sentenced in March, court records show.

In North Las Vegas, there were 31 homicides in 2023, North Las Vegas Police Department spokesperson Officer Brian Thomas said in emails.

It’s a rise of 14.8 percent over the city’s 27 homicides in 2022.

“The overwhelming majority are isolated incidents,” said North Las Vegas Police Captain Adam Hyde in an interview.

Of that 31 in 2023, 26 had been solved as of the end of January, for a solve rate of 83 percent, Thomas said.

Those numbers from North Las Vegas include justifiable, or self-defense, homicides.

Accounting for justified or self-defense homicides, four of the 31 homicides in 2023 were determined to have been justified, while seven of 27 total homicides in 2022 and two of 31 homicides in 2021 were justified, Thomas said.

Removing the killings considered justified leaves 27 in 2023, 20 in 2022 and 29 in 2021. That meant North Las Vegas saw a 35 percent rise over 2022 and a 6.8 percent decrease from 2021.

Seven of those killings in North Las Vegas in 2023 were of boys ranging in age from 13 to 17, all fatally shot, according to records of Clark County homicides maintained by the Review-Journal.

Another eight people killed were under 30. Only four victims were 50 or over, and none were older than 58 in North Las Vegas.

“We as a community have to work collectively to guide and mentor our youth,” Hyde said. “It’s everybody’s responsibility to assure our youth are held accountable for their actions. And as law enforcement, educators, and parents, we must work together to provide a successful path for our youth.”

Henderson spikes after low 2022, but on par with 2021, 2020

Henderson saw 12 homicides in 2023, according to police. Of those cases, four remained open as of Jan. 3, with one considered unsolved. Five resulted in arrests.

That’s a rise of 200 percent over the noticeably lower four homicides in Henderson in 2022, all four of which were solved.

In 2021, there were 13 homicides, with 12 solved, while in 2020, there were 14 homicides, with 14 solved, according to an email from police spokesperson Officer Katrina Farrell.

The department does not distinguish between justifiable and self-defense homicides, and police officials declined to comment further on the figures.

Fatal police shootings

The homicide totals provided by law enforcement also do not include fatal police shootings, referred to by law enforcement as officer-involved shootings. The totals below are from numbers provided by police and from Review-Journal records.

In 2023, Metro had five fatal officer-involved shootings, compared to eight the year before. Separately, a knife-wielding man who had killed a woman died Oct. 31 after he was run over by a Metro police vehicle, tased and had stabbed himself, police said.

North Las Vegas had three fatal police shootings in 2023, compared with two the year before.

Henderson had two fatal officer-involved shootings in 2023, as well as the death of a 53-year-old man in police custody that the coroner’s office ruled was a homicide, compared to one fatal officer-involved shooting in 2022, according to Review-Journal records.

There was also the fatal shooting of the Dec. 6 UNLV shooter involving University Police Services officers.

Contact Brett Clarkson at bclarkson@reviewjournal.com.

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