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'You don't have closure' | Family members of homicide victims want answers as unsolved homicides increase

Ranel Marshall is among the growing number of unsolved homicide cases piling up on the desks of DC Police.

WASHINGTON — On a warm summer afternoon in Annandale inside a cemetery known as “Pleasant Valley,” Jolita Marshall visits her granddaughter, Ranel Marshall. 

“I miss the phone calls," Jolita Marshall said. "I miss the things we do together. There's nothing in this world that can ever replace her.”

Jolita Marshall and other family members come to Ranel’s grave daily. Birthdays, and holidays have all been spent at Ranel’s grave.

The 21-year-old Northern Virginia woman, who family called “Rae Rae,” was killed on the streets of Southeast D.C. more than a year ago. Investigators say she was simply sitting in her car, picking up a friend to go to a movie, when she was gunned down during the afternoon rush hour on Alabama Avenue on June 29, 2021. She died of her injuries on July 5.

“You don't have closure,” Ranel’s mom, ArLita Marshall, said. “You don't know why. You have so many questions and no answers. There's nights I don't sleep, because I just wonder why. Why my daughter? Why her? She didn't bother anybody.”

Arlita Marshall doesn’t understand how no one has been arrested, and her frustration is now turning to anger at DC Police.

“It's like once the cameras stopped rolling, my daughter's case was pushed to the back burner,” she said.

Credit: MPD
A $25,000 reward has been offered by DC Police in exchange for information that leads to the arrest of Ranel Marshall's killer.

DC Police’s Assistant Chief Leslie Parsons, who oversees MPD’s Investigations Division, said homicide cases are often not solved as quickly as family or even detectives would like.

“Our detectives are passionate, they work hard, and they never forget their victims,” Parsons said.

A WUSA9 investigation revealed Ranel Marshall is among a growing number of unsolved homicide cases piling up on the desks of DC Police in 2022. Records obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request show MPD’s “clearance rate” for homicide cases, which is the percentage of homicide cases that are solved, sits at 48% as of July 2022. That’s less than one out of every two homicides in the District leading to an arrest. 

The department’s clearance rate is down about 20% from where MPD’s homicide clearance rate has been at end of the year for the last four years.

By comparison, neighboring Montgomery, Prince George’s and Fairfax counties show anywhere from 85% to 93% of homicides solved in 2022. But those police departments have far fewer homicides to investigate than MPD, and Parsons said MPD typically still sits above the national average for homicide clearance rates in similar-sized cities, which is why Parsons said that looking at his department’s closure rate in the middle of the year is misleading.

When asked if the homicide clearance rate was a major problem, Parsons said "no."

Parsons also did not blame staffing issues, D.C.’s rising homicide rate, a lack of community assistance or anything else for where his department’s homicide closure rate sits currently.

“I believe that our closure rate will increase,” Parsons said. “I can't give you a number. I can't tell you where it will be, because that's based on us closing cases.”

Hoping to finally close Ranel Marshall’s case, her family is taking matters into their own hands handing out posters offering a $25,000 reward from the city for information leading to an arrest at the scene of her homicide, on what would have been her 22nd Birthday.

“I just want them to catch the coward that killed my grandchild,” Jolita Marshall said. “We need to get justice for Rae Rae.”

If you have any information on the homicide of Ranel Marshall, you can leave an anonymous tip by calling 202-727-9099 or by texting 50411.

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