I-Team: Some violent sex crimes just now getting investigated months, even years after they happened

CLEVELAND -- The FOX 8 I-Team has uncovered another backlog of cases waiting to be investigated in the Cleveland Police Sex Crimes Unit, a problem we’ve exposed before.

Multiple sources say the current backlog involves some cases dating back months and even years.

We began looking into this again after Cleveland police released photos of a man with a gun suspected in the kidnapping and rape of a young woman. The crime happened in May 2017, but the photos were just released last week.

A young woman said a man attacked her after apparently following her home from a bus stop near East 147th and Kinsman. The victim’s mother tells the I-Team, the family gave police the pictures of the suspect from a home security system the day after the crime. But the pictures were never released until days ago.

The victim’s mother said, “That was my first question, like, why now?” She added, "Yes, our security system and the police collected that at the time of the incident the very next day. It's been over a year. No one contacted us.”

Yet, last week, when the chief’s office released the photos to the news media hoping someone might recognize the suspect, the e-mail said, “PHOTOS JUST RECEIVED FROM SEX CRIMES”.

Last winter, the I-Team revealed 60 Cleveland sex crimes cases had not been fully investigated. And nearly a decade ago, the case of serial killer Anthony Sowell led police to promise better handling of sex crimes cases and missing persons.

Looking into the current backlog, the I-Team first contacted the chief’s office. We received a quick response, but no answers. Instead, the chief’s office said to find out more about the backlog, we’d need to file a request with the Cleveland Law Department. Often, we wait weeks or months to get a response from the law department.

So, we also sent an e-mail to the mayor’s office. We also stopped there in person and asked for someone to address this on camera. As of late Tuesday, the city has not responded in person or in writing.

Cleveland Police Union President Jeff Follmer says he’s also looking into this. He says the number of old cases now being investigated could approach two dozen. He blames the recurring problem of falling behind a result of what he calls “weak management all the way to the chief’s office.”

Short-staffing has also been a concern in the unit, a need for more detectives. The I-Team is also asking for staffing levels. Multiple sources say the number of detectives actually taking on new cases in the Sex Crimes Unit is well below what’s needed and well below what’s called for in the city budget.