The State of Texas saw an increase in the number of murders last year, but information recently released by the FBI and the Texas Department of Public Safety indicate that Grayson County largely bucked the trend.
Nearly 1,500 people were murdered or died as a result of non-negligent manslaughter in Texas last year, according to the FBI’s Unified Crime Reporting program. That’s up from the approximately 1,300 people killed under similar circumstances in 2015. Violent crimes, which include murder, rape and robbery, also tracked higher across the state last year, after hitting ten-year lows in 2014. And though the DPS reports that the number of murders in Grayson County dropped from eight cases in 2015 to five in 2016, Grayson County District Attorney Joe Brown said the total varies from year to year.
“What I can tell you is that we average probably four or five a year,” Grayson County District Attorney Joe Brown said. “That’s what we can usually expect. Some years we won’t get any, other years we’ll get closer to ten.”
Of the five DPS-recorded murders that occurred in Grayson County last year, four were reported in Sherman and one was reported in Grayson County. Historically, the majority of murders committed in Grayson County take place in cities with larger populations, such as Sherman and Denison. But with the number of non-negligent killings in 2016 able to be counted on one hand and a population of roughly 125,000 residents, Grayson County boasts a lower number of murders and violent crimes as compared with the state average and more urban areas. Brown said the frequency of those crimes has a lot to do with proximity.
“I think because we are outside of the (DFW) Metroplex, there’s less gang activity, there’s less drug activity and people generally aren’t living as close to each other,” Brown said. “That means there’s not as much conflict.”
Officials with the Sherman and Denison police departments said the circumstances of every homicide are different and that it’s difficult to find common factors, such as motives and victim traits, among those committed in Grayson County. But Sherman Police Sgt. D.M. Hampton said victims are most-often killed by someone they know.
“Initially, when it comes out that there’s been a homicide, I know that most people, in their mind, probably think of a perfect stranger coming into town and committing these crimes. But a lot of times it’s somebody that the victim knew, had prior dealings with or was related to them.”
The FBI report indicates that the vast majority of Texans who were murdered in 2016 were killed by offenders who used a firearm or a knife. Though Hampton confirmed such weapons to be the most widely used in Sherman, he added that offenders can and often use whatever is immediately available to attack their victims.
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“When we talk about a weapon it can be anything,” Hampton said. “A car, most prevalent knives or guns and, most recently, we had one (a case) where a baseball bat was used.”
Though Grayson County saw a drop in the number of murders from 2015 to 2016, the county has already seen at least six non-negligent killings in 2017 — one more than was reported last year.
Carl Duncan, 50, of Oklahoma was charged with murder after he led Denison Police on a deadly car chase in March. The pursuit ended when Duncan crashed his vehicle into a barrier and his adult son Judson Duncan, who rode as a passenger in the car, was killed.
Kristoffer Thomas Craft, 35, of Leonard was charged with murder in April after he allegedly and drunkenly crashed his pickup into a home outside Whitewright. The collision killed Craft’s seven-year-old son, who was not wearing a seatbelt.
Brandon Jeffery, 26, was charged with murder in May after he allegedly shot and killed Devin Wayne Owens in a vehicle parked outside a Denison bar.
Sergio Jimenez, 28, of Sherman was charged with capital murder after he allegedly assaulted his pregnant, 24-year-old wife. The attack resulted in the death of the couple’s unborn child.
Nikeya Marquice Grant, 24 and Karalynn Marie Cross, 19, were both charged with capital murder for their role in a reported August robbery which left Sherman hotel clerk Brandon Hubert, 32, dead. Police have also issued a capital murder warrant for Reginald Campbell in connection with the killing.
And James Ragland, 68 was charged with murder in August for allegedly beating James Lowell Dahlem, 60, to death with a baseball bat outside a Sherman home.
Brown said while Grayson County may see fewer murders than larger and more urban areas, those that do occur in the county often hit closer to home.
“In communities like ours, there’s a lot better chance that folks are going to know the people involved,” Brown said. “And any major crime like that, is a crime against the whole community. Everybody has an interest in making sure people don’t do that kind of thing.”