County sets new homicide record

LAWRENCEVILLE - Perhaps a hope for the New Year should be less violence in Gwinnett County, as 2006 brought with it a record year for homicides.

As of Tuesday afternoon, there had been 39 homicides in Gwinnett's municipalities and unincorporated areas,

"The most we've ever had is 37 in 2003, and we've exceeded that," said Ted Bailey, chief forensic investigator with the Gwinnett County Medical Examiner's Office.

Records only go back to 1989, but Bailey said he would bet this is the highest number the county has ever seen.

The two latest reported homicides in Gwinnett involved an older man in Norcross and a younger man in Lawrenceville, and both incidents were reported when most Gwinnettians were celebrating the holiday season with their families.

On Christmas Day, a 63-year-old man was found dead in his Norcross townhome.

The cause of death in that incident had not been released as of Tuesday, but foul play was suspected, said Cpl. Darren Moloney, spokesman for the Gwinnett County Police Department.

The victim's son, whose whereabouts were unknown as of press time Tuesday, was wanted for questioning in the death.

One day earlier on Christmas Eve, a Lawrenceville man died after being shot while riding in a car on Interstate 85 near Ga. 316. According to reports, gunfire came from inside another vehicle on the interstate.

The victim, the passenger, died at Gwinnett Medical Center as the result of his injuries, and the driver suffered injuries that were not life-threatening.

Police as of Tuesday had no suspects in custody and no description of the vehicle.

Moloney said Tuesday that most homicides investigated by Gwinnett police are crimes of passion.

"The majority of the homicides are not stranger-on-stranger (crimes)," Moloney said. "With the majority of the homicides, the victims knew their attacker."

An example would be a recent incident in Snellville involving Roslyn Nicole Tobias, a 31-year-old teacher who was found dead near Emory Eastside Hospital the morning of Dec. 19.

Police say 27-year-old Khalid Nelson of Snellville, also Tobias' boyfriend, was responsible for her death.

Nelson was killed in a standoff with Gwinnett County deputies at his home the same day the body was found.

According to a Sheriff Butch Conway, Nelson refused to come out and the department was forced to make entry, which led to Nelson's death.

Detective Tim Colgan, a spokesman for the Snellville Police Department, said Tobias' death was the first reported homicide - not counting murder-suicide - that he had seen in his 12 years with the department.

According to Snellville police records, which only go back to 1995, there had not been a homicide reported in the city limits since 1995.

District Attorney Danny Porter said there hasn't been a common thread among Gwinnett's reported homicides this year, other than the fact that many of them are domestic in nature.

"With the increase in population, people continue to kill each other for the (same) reasons that people kill each other, and there seems to be more," Porter said.