Less than two years after announcing the establishment of a cold case unit to look at its nearly 300 open homicides, the Kansas City, KS Police Dept. announced that it has solved four of those cases.
During a press conference held at KCK Police headquarters late last month, Chief Karl Oakman and District Attorney Mark Dupree announced two counts of second-degree murder have been filed against Gary Dion Davis.
Davis has been charged in the 1998 murder of Christina King, 26, who was found beaten to death behind an abandoned building. He is also charged in the 1996 stabbing death of Pearl Barnes, who also used the name Sameemah Msawwir. Her body was found in a vacant house in Northeast KCK.
Oakman says detectives in the cold case unit connected Davis, 52, to the crimes through DNA evidence found at both murder scenes. So far, they haven’t been able to find any additional information that connects Davis, an over-the-road trucker, to the two victims. He’s being held in Wyandotte County Jail on $500,000 bond.
“In my experience, based on him killing two women, most likely he’s killed more,” said Oakman.
Oakman says detectives connected Leon Caldwell to the 1997 murder of 16-year-old Dion Estell based on his confession to a cellmate. Estell was found shot to death in a creek bed in the 3500 block of North 18th Street.
Caldwell, 66, is currently in prison on a first-degree conviction from a 1998 killing. Caldwell, who is on hospice care, confessed to the killing on his deathbed, saying he wanted to offer closure to Estell’s family. Detectives verified the confession based on information he shared that only the killer would have known.
Baby Girl Jane Doe
The oldest case cleared was the 1996 murder of “Baby Girl Jane Doe,” whose body was found in an apartment complex dumpster. The infant still had her umbilical cord attached. An autopsy ruled her death, just hours after she was born, a murder.
DNA testing helped identify the child’s mother in 2022. During a police interview, the woman accused her grandmother of taking the baby away shortly after she gave birth. Since the grandmother is now dead, the case is closed.
Cold Case Unit
Oakman launched the cold case unit in 2022, just weeks after he took the helm at the department. Before, the department relied on a tip line for additional info and just hoped someone would come forward with tips providing additional insight on these cases. In the meantime, members of the deceased’s family just waited
At the announcement of the new unit, Oakman said advances in DNA and forensic testing would prove beneficial in solving many of these cases. He was correct, DNA proved helpful in solving three of these cases.
When it was announced, the unit was “the area’s only dedicated” cold case unit. So far, Oakman said, the unit has identified suspects in 11 cold homicides.
Prior to the formation of the unit, community-based Justice for Wyandotte led an awareness and petition campaign for the establishment of the unit. The organization’s founder, Khadijah Hardaway, said, “ I am happy to see justice being served and deeply appreciate all who worked on getting answers for Sameemah’s family.”