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EDITORIAL: Demetrius Griffin and Chicago’s cold-case murder problem

Demetrius Griffin

Demetrius Griffin, then 15, was killed in 2016. | Facebook

It’s been more than two years since police found 15-year-old Demetrius Griffin’s body in a burning trash can on a West Side street.

An autopsy determined that he had been burned alive. We can’t imagine his family’s pain when they learned the truth about why Griffin never came home on a September weekend in 2016.

Since then, the family’s pain in some ways has only grown, because Griffin’s murder remains unsolved.

Whoever was vicious enough to set him on fire, then leave his body in an alley, is walking around scot-free.


“No child deserves what he got. My family has no closure … and this city is doing nothing,” Griffin’s aunt, Rochelle Sykes, told the Sun-Times on Monday, when the family announced a $15,000 reward for information about the murder.

It’s impossible to believe that no one has information. Just as it’s impossible to believe that no one knows a thing about the hundreds of other murders that go unsolved every year in our city.

As a general rule in Chicago, the guilty escape punishment and families grieve without justice. 

The year Griffin was killed, in 2016, Chicago’s murder clearance rate was a shameful 26 percent, according to FBI data. In 2017, the clearance rate fell to below 20 percent. 

The Chicago Police Department is still short on detectives. That’s an obvious part of the problem. But detectives need tips, and it’s up to citizens to step up.

As Sykes told CBS 2 a few months ago, blaming a “street code of silence” for her nephew’s unsolved killing: “Can you imagine the screams? Burning him alive? And you did nothing?”

Yes, many people of color in low-income communities don’t trust cops. And, yes, they fear retaliation if it becomes known that they talked to the police.

But keeping quiet is wrong. It goes against everything we know is right. And tips can be made anonymously. One option is at cpdtip.com.

Demetrius Griffin, and all the victims, deserve better.

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