MANATEE -- With 2013 coming to an end, the year will close out with a local homicide rate much lower than the one that preceded it.
There have been a total of 13 homicides in Manatee County this year, with nine of those occurring within the City of Bradenton and one in Palmetto. In 2012, the county saw 27 homicides, a jump from previous totals of 15 in 2011 and 13 in 2010.
This year, Manatee County had a secret weapon for solving murders: the newly formed Manatee County Homicide Task Force.
"I see what the task force gives the county and the residents of the county, I am just pleased and honored to be part of it," task force detective James Curulla said. "It's a nice feeling to see the success."
The homicide task force was been instrumental in attempting to solve two of the more complex homicides of the year, "The Jerk" shooting and the Dream Center shooting, in which an arrest could be coming soon, Curulla said.
"We put away Jerry Green, who committed crimes everywhere in the county," he said. "These guys don't know the boundaries, to say that you put away these guys, that is a win for the entire county."
The agencies have been pleased with the results of the task force, comprised of detectives from Bradenton and Palmetto police and the Manatee Sheriff's Office combining resources and man power to solve homicides in a county-wide effort.
While nine of the county's 13 homicides occurred
within the City of Bradenton, that is just a fluke, Curulla said.
"I have never seen so many homicides in the city," Curulla said.
A reminder from the 13-year veteran detective, criminals don't know boundaries.
Here is where the investigations into this year's homicides stand:
The first homicide in 2013 was Paul Grieco, 16, who was shot to death Jan. 2 at 1832 Manatee Ave. W. in Bradenton during an attempted armed robbery by three suspects.
Danny Waiters and Jimmy Rivers were both arrested days later and charged with his murder. Waiters was sentenced to a minimum of 22 years in prison after pleading no contest to the charge of second-degree murder, and Rivers' trial is set to start Jan. 21.
The year's second homicide was the Feb. 12 beating death of Damen Gilbert, 20, at 1525 21st St. E. in Bradenton. No arrests have been made.
"We have yet to charge someone with that but we have charged someone with possession of the weapon," Curulla said.
Carlos Albert Jurado became the third homicide of the year when he shot at Sheridan Place Apartments on 26th Avenue West in Bradenton on April 1. A little over a month later, Jerry Wayne Green, known on the street as "The Jerk", was charged with his death.
Green has pled not guilty, and his trial is set to begin on Feb. 10.
The fourth homicide of the year was the May 15 stabbing of Karen Mudgett. Her husband, Sean Mudgett, has been charged and has filed a plea of not guilty. His attorney plans to use a defense of insanity.
Jazmin Catano, 30, became Manatee's fifth homicide when she died of trauma to the body on June 22.
The Manatee County Sheriff's Office has issued an arrest warrant for her ex-boyfriend, Andres Colazos, who flew to Colombia on June 23 before her body had even been discovered. The United States Marshals office is working with Colombian authorities to extradite him if and when he is located.
The sixth homicide was Michael Wesley, 23, who died of head trauma on July 17. Wesley was found inside a residence on the 1900 block of Seventh Avenue East in Bradenton by emergency medical service personnel, who were contacted by an anonymous caller.
"We have a capias that was forwarded to the state, so that is pending," Curulla said.
Matthew Arguez, 20, became homicide No. 7 when he was shot on July 8 outside his Palmetto home. He died on July 24 from his injuries.
"It is still an open investigation," Palmetto Deputy Chief Scott Tyler said. "Right now there are no suspects."
Tyler said he unaware of any new leads in the case, but the department would love for someone in the community to call in with additional information.
The eighth homicide of the year was Brenton Coleman Sr., 39, who was killed by gunfire at the 13th Avenue Dream Center on Aug. 1 following a youth football practice.
"That case is actually open, but an arrest in that case will be made soon," Curulla said.
The ninth homicide of the year was Lytreeon Collins. Collins, 32, was fatally struck in the stomach by a spray of gunfire Aug. 15 from two assailants at a house in the 4300 block of Eighth Street Court East.
"We are still following up leads, but no arrests yet," Manatee County Sheriff's Office Spokesman Dave Bristow said.
Maria Moralez, 42, became homicide No. 10 on Aug. 27 when she was found shot dead inside a tractor in the orange groove off State Road 62 in Duette where she worked.
Her ex-boyfriend, Joel Ramirez, had been named a "person of interest" but was not located until last week, when investigators believe it was his remains that were found along with personal items by park rangers in the Duette Preserve.
The 11th homicide was Juan Enrique Medina, a 49-year-old father of four, who was shot to death on Oct. 6 just outside his home. He and another man had confronted a gunman who had just committed two armed robberies at nearby duplex apartments in the 2200 block of 15th Avenue East.
Ronnie C. Bundrage Jr., a 26-year-old bus driver for the Manatee County School District, was arrested and charged with the armed robberies. Witness accounts and evidence suggested he was also responsible for Medina's death, but police were waiting for the results from evidence still being processed at the time.
"We foresee an arrest on that very soon," Curulla said.
Cletus James Boyer, 71, became the twelfth homicide when the homeless man died on Dec. 19 from injuries he sustained when he was pistol whipped and robbed on Nov. 1.
Bradenton twin brothers Donnell Jamar Henderson and Dontay Jamarrie Henderson, 20, were each arrested Nov. 6 and had been charged with armed robbery, aggravated battery and other charges as a result of the incident. Dontay Jamarrie Henderson was later released from jail when the State Attorney's Office decided not to prosecute. His brother remains in custody and will now face murder charges.
The 13th homicide victim, Linda Brown, died on Nov. 3 from a gunshot wound. Her live-in boyfriend, Terry A. Brady, was arrested that same day for the shooting that took place at the couple's residence in the 200 block of 19th Street East.
While the year will close with arrests made or pending in most of the year's homicides, law enforcement continues to look to the community for help in solving more cases.
"Just because it is an older case doesn't mean we are not interested in information," Tyler said.
The community has become more proactive in coming forward than in years past, Tyler added.
"We see the same names coming up again and again," Tyler said. "Once they are off the streets, people will come forward with information on cold cases."
Anyone with any information on any homicides can call the Manatee County Sheriff's Office at 941-747-3011 or to remain anonymous, they can call CrimeStoppers at 866-634-8477.
Jessica De Leon, law enforcement reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter @JDeLeon1012.