INDEPENDENCE, MO (KCTV) — A sea of white papers on a lawn in at East 39th Street and Crackerneck Road in Independence made a startling statement Saturday.
Each flyer represented an unsolved homicide case from the Kansas City metro area. Some were recent, others dated as back as 1970.
There were 530 of them.
“530 is a lot. 530 is more than you get in Walmart on Black Friday,” Michelle Matje said.
Michelle Matje is the brains behind Saturday’s vigil. She founded Corey’s Network back in 2017 after her 22 year-old son Corey Laykovich’s homicide was finally solved.
Laykovich was stabbed in 2013 while walking home from getting a soda at a nearby gas station.
Matje admits that before her son was killed, she made snap judgements when she saw mothers of homicide victims sharing their pain on the news.
“I could say ‘oh that poor lady, she’s lost her son, but they must’ve been doing drugs or he must’ve been doing something illegal or he put himself in that position or whatever,’’’ Matje said.
But her son did not fall into any of those categories — and what happened to him could happen to anyone.
Matje turned her pain into purpose after her son’s murder, by helping families of other homicide victims.
Sunday’s vigil was about bringing awareness to individual cases, and the sheer number of unsolved homicides in the metro.
“Somebody needs to speak up. Because I’m sure whoever killed my son has either killed before, or killed after, and they are still roaming the streets if they haven’t already killed somebody else,” Randy Hill said.
Hill’s son, Dylan Hill, was found shot to death in his truck in December 11, 2018 near East 80th Terrace and James A. Reed Road. The case is still unsolved and Hill now sees other homicide cases in a different way.
“It could be your son or daughter who is murdered, you know? You can’t just turn it off and forget about it. It could be anybody’s child. And the worst thing in the world is to bury her child, trust me on that,” Hill said.
Cynthia Caswell also came to share her daughter, Libby Caswell’s picture and story. She was found dead in an independence motel room in December 2017
“We know people know things. And all the stories out here, somebody knows something they’re just too afraid to come forward or they think maybe it doesn’t matter. But it matters,” Caswell said.
Families who came to the vigil have not lost hope they’ll find justice someday. Partially due to family’s who have found it years later, like the family of Fawn Cox.
Fawn’s murder was solved November 2020, 31 years after it happened. And her family and friends hope that gives hope to the families of other victims.
“Don’t give up. Don’t give up hope. Be their voice,” they said.
Now they’ve moved on to advocating for other homicides in their circle. Like the murder of 21 year-old Kyle Gerhardt. He was killed March 1, 2021 in Northeast Kansas City.
“If you know something you need to say something. There’s lots of family still waiting for answers,” Gerhardt’s mother Serinna Howell said.
All families want people to keep talking about their loved one’s stories.
They want their loves one’s name in the news in hopes of someone coming forward with information. Many won’t stop advocating until they have answers.
“I can’t continue to wake up every morning and wonder who killed my son and why. I need justice,” Hill said.
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