KANSAS CITY, MO — On Monday, Kansas City, Missouri, tied the record for the most homicides in a calendar year at 153 after recording two more deaths, matching a grim milestone that dated back to 1993.
Many of those homicides remain unsolved. After a homicide occurs, the Kansas City Police Department asks people to reach out to the Greater Kansas City Crime Stoppers with any tips in the case.
Those tips could mean life-changing money for the tipsters, but they absolutely change the lives of the victims' families.
“My son, my oldest, Jeff Rogers was murdered here in Kansas City, Kansas, in an April 2008 home invasion,” Nancy Euler said. “He fought with them, they shot him, stabbed him and took off running.”
“Corey was 22, and he was walking home from QuikTrip off 39th and Independence,” Michelle Metje said. “His friend came up behind him, put a knife to the side of his neck.”
Corey Laykovich and Jeff Rogers never met. They died, violently, five years apart. But today, years after their murders, their mothers tell their stories and the role the Crime Stoppers Tips Hotline played in finding their killers.
Euler waited more than a decade for an arrest to be made in her son's murder.
“We got the phone call, ‘We think we know something. Something was called into the Crime Stoppers. We think we know,’ and it was about a week later they made their arrest," Euler said. “And I am grateful for the person that called in.”
Euler told 41 Action News she thinks about the break in her son's case every time she sees a new homicide reported.
“Even if you think you know something, call. Call it in,” Euler said. “It might not be anything, but maybe it puts part of the puzzle together.”
Metje used the KC Crime Stoppers tips line to keep the death of her son, Corey Laykovich, in the public eye. Her family gave multiple $500 donations to Corey's supplemental reward fund. Each time, Crime Stoppers reissued the details of his case to local media.
Metje says she was confident all along that someone knew something, but she also knew people aren't normally inclined to help.
“It’s called the bystander effect,” Metje said. “You know, ‘I'm not a doctor so I'm not going to stop for this car wreck, 'cause somebody who's got better information is going to do it.’ And people always assume someone else is going to step forward.”
Since June 2019, when the $25,000 reward was instituted for tips leading to a homicide arrest in KCMO, 18 rewards have been approved for that amount. Only six have ever been claimed.
That's more than a quarter of a million dollars left on the table, and because of the anonymous nature of the tips line, it'll likely never be claimed.
Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas told 41 Action News that he knows he's not the only Kansas Citian who hears gunshots in his neighborhood, almost to the point of getting used to it. But, he says, that can't happen.
“I think it’s important for all of us to say, ‘Who do we want to be,’” Lucas said. “It’s about how you solve each individual crime. That's the way we dig ourselves out of it. From what I've seen from going to a lot of American cities, and talking to a lot of mayors, is that there is not a magic wand approach. It’s got to be murder by murder.”
That's an almost overwhelming thought, considering this year's record-breaking homicide pace, which Lucas says he'll regret for the rest of his life.
But the families on the other end of that number are waiting for heroes to pick up the phone.
“It takes a very special person to run into a fire while everyone else is running out,” Metje said. “And what we're looking for are those people that are convicted enough that they say, ‘I'm going to do this because it’s the right thing to do.’”
If you know anything about any of the dozens of unsolved homicides in KCMO this year, call the Greater Kansas City Crime Stoppers Tips Hotline at 816-474-8477 (TIPS), or visit the Crime Stoppers website.
You will remain completely anonymous, and the tips are paid out in cash.