Unsolved crimes that shocked SF in 2010 

Killings in tourist hotspots, at packed nightclubs and at a gay-pride street party were some of the tragic headlines from 2010, a year in which, as of Dec. 18, 48 people were murdered in San Francisco. Although most of these homicides are unrelated, many of them share one similar trait: They remain unsolved.

In at least two high-profile cases, suspects were arrested but soon after released due to a lack of evidence. Months have passed in several homicide investigations involving dozens of witnesses without an arrest. As of Dec. 18, just 20 of 48 homicides had been solved, significantly less than the same period last year, when 33 of 45 homicides were cleared, police data showed.

Below is a list of some of the more horrendous crimes committed during the past year in which no one has been brought to justice.

Stephen Powell, 19

The former high school basketball star was killed, and two others were injured, after a gunman opened fire into a large crowd at the Pink Saturday street party during Pride Weekend in the Castro district. The gunplay sent people running for cover, witnesses said. Days after the shooting — which was believed to be gang-related — cops apprehended a suspect. That person turned out not to be the killer, police said, and an arrest has yet to be announced in the case. Despite the incident, Pink Saturday, the annual event that happens the night before Sunday’s gay pride parade, will go on next year, city officials have said.

Philip DiMartino, 36

The marketing executive was found with multiple stab wounds in his Hermann Street apartment on Aug. 2. A coworker investigating why he hadn’t shown up to work made the grisly discovery. There was no forced entry into the apartment, but that’s nearly all that is known. Cops have said little about the investigation except that the killer is believed to be a Hispanic man, and that he cut his hand while committing the murder. Police have canvassed Castro district bars DiMartino frequented for clues, but so far have been unable to crack the case.

Mechthild Schröer, 50

The elementary school principal from Minden, Germany, was killed in front of her husband during a chaotic shootout outside a private party for teenagers at Mason and Geary streets near Union Square. The vacationing couple — celebrating their wedding anniversary and Mechthild’s birthday — was caught in the crossfire while searching for a bite to eat following a stroll around The City. The Aug. 8 shooting sent throngs of people at the touristy intersection running for cover. Only moments after Mechthild’s death, five teens were detained, including the murder suspect. Mayor Gavin Newsom lauded a San Francisco cabbie for trailing a suspicious vehicle that contained those teens and summoning cops. However, the teens were released soon after due to a lack of evidence. And despite Police Chief George Gascon’s promise in late August that arrests were imminent, four months have passed and no one is being held responsible. Despite the loss of his wife, Stefan Schröer has planned a return trip to the scene of the killing with his two sons to memorialize her death. Residents and businesses are welcoming the family with open arms, offering food, hotel stay and tours of The City.

Michael Ponder, 53

Cops did not have to trek far to investigate this homicide — the homeless man was found beaten to death less than 100 feet from SFPD’s Park Station. A cop patrolling known transient campgrounds in Golden Gate Park on Aug. 28 found the body of Michael Ponder up against the fence of Kezar Stadium around 7:30 a.m.
The death highlighted a growing problem of violence among transients in the park this past year, including several stabbings and a dog attack. Though homeless people have repeatedly been offered services and punished with citations for the past two years for camping in or around Golden Gate Park, dozens have ignored both. The issue of violence among the homeless in Golden Gate Park has vexed city officials. Mayor Gavin Newsom recently introduced legislation to shut down the park, which would stiffen penalties for trespassing campers.

Jelvon Helton, 22

The former star wrestler and alleged gang member was shot multiple times in the chest inside a hopping Marina district nightclub near midnight on Nov. 1, the night the Giants’ won the World Series. Even though the brazen killing at the Gravity Room at 3251 Scott St. was witnessed by numerous club goers, but police were only able to get a vague description of the shooter.
According to an article written by Helton’s wrestling coach in the San Francisco BayView, the slain wrestler’s mother lost two sons within two years to violence. His younger brother, Andre, was one of two people found shot to death in a parked car near the University of San Francisco. The 2008 murder is also unsolved.

Monday the Mute Swan

Residents have called for the head of the birdbrain that brutally broke an iconic swan’s neck — but the murder case remains dead in the water. The 5-year-old swan named Monday was found dead at the lagoon on Nov. 13. Results of a necropsy revealed foul play. Longtime caretakers believe members of a large party that was held in the area the night of the killing are responsible, as beer cans were found at the crime scene.
The lagoon swans are iconic. They have waded at the Palace of Fine Arts lagoon since the 1915 Panama Pacific Exposition. Monday was the last of two remaining swans in the lagoon. A cash reward has been offered for information leading to killer’s capture.
Animal Care and Control officials have moved the remaining swan to the San Francisco Zoo for its protection.

Medina Abdulkader, 23

Abdulkader, a San Francisco resident, was shot dead on Thanksgiving night near Japantown, close to the intersection of Buchanan Street and Geary Boulevard. Neighbors in the area told KTVU they saw a group of people at the crime scene before the shooting took place. A man claiming to be her cousin told the news agency no one knew why anyone would have wanted to hurt her.
A day after the shooting, San Francisco police said they had information on the suspects, but no arrest has been made in the case.

maldax@sfexaminer.com

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