How Homicides are Counted

Latisha Frazier most likely died on Aug. 2 of last year, according to court documents. On Jan. 23, her case changed from that of a missing person to a suspected homicide, and 23-year-old Brian Gaither became the first of five suspects arrested in connection with her death.

When this year’s murders are tallied, Frazier will be counted as a 2011 homicide. Last year’s number, 131, won’t change.

This might seem counterintuitive. A case becomes a homicide, and is counted as such in a host of official statistics, when the District’s medical examiner rules it a homicide. In our records at Homicide Watch, we track the date of each incident, date of death and the the date a case is ruled a homicide. These are usually the same day, but not always.

Consider the case of Demetrius Ormon Dempsey:

On Saturday, June 30, 2007, at approximately 3:30 am, Sixth District officers responded to an assault in the 200 block of 54th Street, NE. An adult male was located and was transported to a local area hospital where he was admitted. The victim remained in hospitals and nursing facilities the remainder of his life.

On Monday, December 13, 2010, the victim was transported to a local area hospital in an unconscious state and was subsequently pronounced dead. The victim’s remains were transported to the DC Medical Examiners Officer pending an autopsy.

On Monday, January 10, 2011, the manner of death was ruled a homicide resulting from complications of blunt force trauma.

Dempsey was attacked in 2007 and died in late 2010. His death was ruled a homicide in January 2011. When this year’s deaths are counted, his name will be on the list of 2011 victims.

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