Murders are on the rise in Yakima, but are killers being caught?

YAKIMA, Wash.-- More murders are happening in Yakima than in recent years. The KIMA Crime Tracker found this year's number is already higher than each of the last two.

Murders like the one outside the Red Apple Motel in Yakima earlier this year are always troubling. It took a few weeks, but police tracked down their prime suspect. YPD solves most of these cases. The department credits that to its major crimes unit and better equipment.

"I've seen these guys work 24 hours straight without stopping as long as the leads are coming in," YPD Captain Rod Light said.

KIMA pulled the numbers and found there have been nine murders within city limits so far this year. Six of those cases have suspects in custody and three others do not. One is the recent deadly arson that killed Jerene Matta. Another is the stabbing death of Miguel Chavez-Munguia just after Halloween.

"That's certainly a solvable case and we certainly believe in time that will be solved," Captain Light said about that case.

This year's other open murder case happened in May. Verenis Ramos was found shot to death in an abandoned home on North Fourth Avenue. Shortly after the murder, KIMA learned her case could be connected to another crime.

"I had interviewed somebody else from the department here who told me that there were some leads connected to the murder of Anthony Yocum," a KIMA reporter said to Rod Light. "Is there any more information?"
"No there isn't, but I know what you're referencing," he said.

YPD investigated seven murders in 2012. Investigators say all those cases are cleared, but not all of them ended with people in jail.

"That's certainly our goal," Captain Light said. "I mean, unfortunately that's not what happens every year."

In 2011 YPD investigated six murders. Two of those are still open, but police say those cases have not gone cold.

Investigators tell KIMA these murders were not random. They don't consider the open cases a direct public threat.