Unsolved homicide summit planned in Monterey Park

MONTEREY PARK — Law enforcement officials and prosecutors are teaming with the victims’ advocacy groups this weekend to host their first-ever crime victim’s clinic and unsolved homicide summit.
The summit, scheduled for 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Headquarter’s Bureau, 4700 Ramona Boulevard in Monterey Park, will feature panel discussions and presentations centering on the issue of unsolved slayings, organizers said.
“If you have an unsolved homicide or are interested in unsolved homicides, you need to be at this event,” organizers said in a written statement.
“Families need closure,” said Jeanette Chavez of Justice for Homicide Victims, whose 16-year-old daughter Sammantha Salas was fatally shot in an unincorporated county area between Monrovia and Duarte on Jan. 26, 2008. The case was unsolved for more than a year before two Monrovia men were arrested, convicted and sentenced for the crime.
“I know the feeling of not having our case solved for 14 months. It’s pressure. You can’t function. Some people have lost their jobs. They don’t know what to do next. They’re lost. I know that feeling.”
The summit is designed to empower and educate affected families regarding the law, their rights and the grieving process, she said.
“We look forward to helping victims’ families in getting a better understanding of how the process works,” Chavez said. “They have every right to be their victims’ voices.”
Speakers represent a variety of perspectives with regard to the issue of homicide, from professionals to regular people unwillingly familiarized with the issue through the murder of a loved one.
Sheriff Lee Baca and other high-ranking police and sheriff’s officials will take part, along with family members of homicide victims, media representatives, federal investigators, activists and prosecutors.
And the dialogue was intended to be two-ways, Chavez said.
“Hopefully, this event will shed some light for victims families, an also for the officials who will be there to better understand how we feel,” she said.
At the meeting, “We’ll discuss how we’re going to come together. How do the policies and procedures work? What are the methods. How can we think out of the box to get these cases solved?”
For example, Justice for Homicide Victims has several steps members would like to see taken when it comes to following up on unsolved homicide investigations, Chavez explained.
Law enforcement should do a better job of informing victims of their rights under Marsy’s Law, also known as the Victims Bill of Rights, Chavez said. Victim’s families should be routinely read the law, much like suspects are read their Miranda rights when arrested, she said.
Another suggestion offered by the group is to print decks of playing cards with the images of and information from unsolved homicides to distribute to inmates in county jails and state prisons, Chavez said. Such measures have had success in other states in helping solve cold cases.
Another idea promoted by JHV is to establish some form of second opinion in Los Angeles County and statewide to review unsolved cases with “fresh eyes,” after the initial law enforcement investigators and prosecutors.
“Our goal is to get these cases solved, to get these criminals off the street so they won’t harm another family,” Chavez said.

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