TAMPA, Fla. – Going 12 years without Isaiah Brooks has been difficult for Darla Saunders.
What's even harder is going 12 years without closure on who murdered her son in 2005 and dumped him in a field blocks away from his Tampa home.
“This is the holiday season and we hurt at this time. I mean, we hurt deeply,” Saunders said. “It's sort of scary, too, because the people who are responsible are actually walking around this community and they're able to murder again."
Since her son's brutal murder, Saunders has been on a mission to not only find the killer, but to also push law enforcement to work harder to crack unsolved cases.
In 2017, there have been 41 homicides in Tampa. Fifteen of them remain unsolved. In 2016, there were 10 unsolved murders; the year before that, there were 18.
“We need to actively work on these cases. We work on any other case when situations arise. Those cases are solved. So, in our communities, we need the same...efforts put into place,” she said.
However, Saunders acknowledged the problem of the “no-snitch” culture in the black community, and how it often allows offenders to roam the streets because neighbors are too afraid to speak up.
Her non-profit, Advocates 4 Safer Communities works on unraveling this culture, but she says the community needs to see more from police, too.
“We basically have been waiting since 2005 for his case to be solved,” she said.
The Tampa Police Department does not currently have a unit dedicated to unsolved murders. A spokesperson said all homicide detectives work diligently to resolve cold cases in all communities.
"Our homicide unit, they work collectively on cases," said TPD spokeswoman Janelle McGregor. "We don't like to refer to them as 'cold cases,' because they're still very much active. Anytime we have a case that has not been resolved by an arrest, it's still active in our books. It's still a case that we're looking into."
However, McGregor says detectives need more cooperation from the public to put killers behind bars.
“We need people to speak up," said TPD spokeswoman Janelle McGregor. "Regardless of how minute they think it is, that small piece of information could be the big break in the case that would allow officers to make an arrest. We need people in the African American community to be outraged when crimes like this occur. We need them to speak out and stand up and to work hand in hand with law enforcement and to get guns out of the wrong hands and to prevent senseless crimes like this from happening."