Ohio wants help solving 15 loosely linked killings

ANDREW WELSH-HUGGINS AP Legal Affairs Writer Published:

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- Loosely affiliated "groups and associates" have committed 15 unsolved, mostly drug-related homicides in central Ohio since 1998, authorities announced Wednesday as they asked the public's help in identifying suspects.

State and federal police and prosecutors stopped short of identifying specific gangs that might be involved. They said the killings, almost all in Columbus, often involved violent home invasions and drugs.

The last homicide was committed July 4. The victims include two women.

"We have good reason to believe that they are tied together over this period of time, by some ... groups and associates committing the offenses," said Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien.

Some of the suspects are in prison for unrelated crimes, which O'Brien hopes will lessen people's reluctance to step forward out of fear of reprisal.

U.S. Attorney Carter Stewart said the goal is to bring closure to victims' families. Columbus police Chief Kim Jacobs said unsolved homicides affect the broader community and added that the victims' criminal history doesn't matter.

"Whatever happened in regards to how the crime got committed, or why the person got murdered, it still matters to us, regardless of whether they were engaged in criminal behavior at the time," she said.

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Online: http://www.justice.gov/usao/ohs/news/02-19-14.html