Public television in the Virgin Islands is taking on a mission to showcase unsolved murders in the territory. The monthly series on cold case homicides is called Virgin Islands Case Files; its second episode aired Nov. 20.
The show has drawn support from the Virgin Islands Police Department. Shortly before the first episode of Case Files aired in October, Police Commissioner Ray Martinez expressed hope that the show might refresh the memory of anyone who could provide new details on a case and help detectives solve crimes.
Police spokesman Glen Dratte said the department currently has 154 unsolved murders recorded between 2013 and 2021.
WTJX Chief Executive Officer Tanya Singh says the show’s concept came from producer Makeda Russell. “She told me about her desire to do the show, and I was all in. She didn’t have to sell it to me,” Singh said.
The police top brass agreed. “I immediately called Police Commissioner Ray Martinez and asked them, and I didn’t have to sell it to him. They immediately underwrote 10 episodes,” she said.
The show tells the story, in half-hour segments, of what’s known about the cases chosen for profile through the eyes of investigators and the victim’s survivors. The host of the show is Celia Carroll, a local advocate against gun violence and mother of a homicide victim 22 years ago on St. Thomas.
“From a law enforcement perspective, we hope to utilize this show as a means for bringing closure to some of these families who, over time, have seen no movement on the cases of their loved ones,” Martinez said. The commissioner added the hope that viewers who might be familiar with the cases might remember hearing or seeing something related to the crime, and give his detectives a call.
Virgin Islands Case Files comes at a time when the rate of unsolved murders is on the rise nationwide. According to an article appearing in The Atlantic magazine, in July, the murder clearance rate is at an all-time low.
The FBI uses the term murder clearance rate to describe the resolution of murder investigations, leading to the arrest of suspects. The U.S. Virgin Islands averages roughly 47 homicides for the years 1997 to the present.
In 2021, police recorded 44 homicides. Families who would like to have the stories of their loved ones lost to violent crime in the Virgin Islands are invited to contact the show’s producer at email@example.com.
“We’re telling these stories in an engaging but non-exploitative manner,” Russel said. Carroll, the host of Case Files, added her appeal to the public, saying the cold case backlog in the Virgin Islands cannot be cleared unless individuals come forward with information to assist law enforcement.
The new public tv series is the latest citizen engagement effort by the VIPD. For more than 20 years, police have received support from the Crimestoppers confidential call-in service that offers cash rewards to citizens sharing information that leads to the arrest of suspects (1-800-222-TIPS).