In March 2019, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter Ashley Luthern and her team of O’Brien student interns launched an online and print series called “Cycles of Violence.” The series investigates the causes and ripple effects of Milwaukee’s backlog of unsolved homicide cases.
Police departments across the country measure their annual progress on homicide cases with their “clearance rate,” which is based on the total number of arrests and suspect identifications in a given year. But this figure can be misleading, as it includes suspects that police can’t track down and arrests for cases from previous years. More importantly, it doesn’t convey how many homicide cases actually result in convictions.
Luthern and her student interns spent six months tracking and analyzing 594 homicide cases using data and documents from police, prosecutors and the court system. Their final analysis showed that fewer than half of Milwaukee’s homicides from 2014 to 2017 actually led to a conviction.
Additionally, the team spent time interviewing families who, amidst their grief, are still seeking answers and justice for loved ones counted among Milwaukee’s unsolved homicide backlog.
Marquette students Sydney Czyzon, Alex Groth, Morgan Hughes and Tara Schumal all contributed reporting to the series. Czyzon, Groth and Schumal also received solo byline credit for sidebar pieces, videos and a multimedia timeline.
The team also collaborated with staff from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, including photojournalist and videographer Angela Peterson and data journalist Kevin Crowe.
The work published to date:
Mar. 15-21, 2019:
Milwaukee murders: Many unsolved, fewer than half end with convictions
If police say a homicide is 'cleared,' does that mean it's solved? It depends.
7 key findings from our investigation into unsolved homicides in Milwaukee
How we analyzed homicide data from police, prosecutors and the court
Over the past 5 years Milwaukee homicides spiked, but fewer were solved. Victims' families wanted answers and so did I.
Grieving after a death? Here’s a list of organizations you can turn to for support
Lost someone to homicide or want to help someone who has? Here’s a list of organizations making a difference in Milwaukee
TIMELINE: Milwaukee Police Department changes in policies, culture
VIDEO: How Milwaukee detectives use informants to catch homicide suspects
VIDEO: Milwaukee detectives explain how the homicide unit works:
Apr. 11, 2019:
'This doesn't go away': When your child is murdered, grief is only the beginning
July 10, 2019:
How Milwaukee became so segregated, and why it matters when it comes to crime
In one of America's most segregated cities, there's unequal violence and unequal justice