MANATEE -- With 27 deaths ruled homicides so far in 2012 throughout Manatee County, the year is setting a deadly record.
The highest recent annual total was 26, in 2009. There were 14 homicides in 2010 and 16 in 2011.
The Manatee sheriff's office, Bradenton Police Department and Palmetto Police Department each have recorded more homicides in 2012 than last year.
"If we get rid of the domestic and drug-related homicides, it would cut our numbers in half," said Dave Bristow, sheriff's office spokesman. "But we don't see that going away."
Never miss a local story.
More than half of the sheriff's cases this year have been closed with arrests, the death of the offenders or after they were found to be a case of justified cause, like self-defense.
"We give the same effort in all cases," said Detective Sgt. Pete Rampone, adding that arrests should be made soon in several more 2012 cases. "Some just take a long time to build the case."
Here's a look at the homicide cases this year in Manatee County:
Victim: Christopher Stokes
Suspects: Three or four unidentified men
Crime: Christopher Stokes, 22, was found critically wounded Jan. 6 in a house that neighbors said was abandoned and unoccupied on the 500 block of 28th Avenue West. He died that evening at Manatee Memorial Hospital.
Three teenagers witnessed three or four people leaving the house and getting into a car at the end of the street after shots were fired.
The teenagers found Stokes inside the home with gunshot wounds to his head and chest. One of the teenagers' mothers called 911.
Investigation: Detectives are looking at several possible suspects. The suspected motive has not been released. The investigation is ongoing at the Manatee County Sheriff's Office.Victim: Ina Gross
Person of Interest: Tom Gross
Crime: Tom Gross discovered the body of his 78-year-old mother, Ina Gross, the morning of Jan. 9 in her two-car garage in the 11000 block of Hyacinth Place in Riverwalk Hammock.
Detectives found a knife on the garage floor and reported no evidence of forced entry.
Investigation: Tom Gross, who lives in Israel with dual citizenship, is a person of interest. Gross was in Florida for a ceremony honoring his deceased father who conducted cancer research at Shands Hospital in Gainesville. Detectives got a statement from Gross after his mother's death, but he has since hired an attorney and declines to speak further.
Victim: Kenya Cox
Arrest: Kwame Henri
Crime: Kenya Cox, 19, was found sprawled on the pavement by deputies Jan. 20 in the 1700 block of 27th Avenue East after his aunt called 911. He was shot once in the head and was pronounced dead at the scene.
A witness said Cox and his cousin Kwame Henri, 20, began wrestling and a shot was fired. Henri fled the scene.
Investigation: Kwame Henri was arrested Jan. 23 on charges of murder and possession of marijuana and crack cocaine. He was released from jail after posting bonds totaling $26,120. Henri is in jail without bond for violating a court order. The case is considered closed at this time, according to the Manatee County Sheriff's Office.
Court: The State Attorney's Office dropped the murder charge April 2. Henri has pleaded not guilty to the drug-related counts.
Victims: Adrian Velasquez Baca and Mauricio Maldonado Conde
Crime: Adrian Velasquez Baca, 43, and his roommate Mauricio Maldonado Conde, 55, were found dead from gunshot wounds Feb. 7 in their duplex in the 600 block of 61st Avenue Terrace East. Deputies responded after one of the victim's employers said he had not heard from him in days.
Investigation: Detectives have identified a person of interest and collected physical evidence at the scene. It appears the motive could have been a robbery. The investigation is ongoing by the Manatee County Sheriff's Office.
Victim: Patrick Dunbar
Crime: Patrick Dunbar, 26, was found shot to death, slumped behind the wheel of a vehicle Feb. 21 in the 200 block of 11th Street Drive West.
Investigation: The investigation is ongoing by the Palmetto Police Department.
Victim: Kevin Parillo
Suspect: Charles Baker, died in murder-suicide.
Crime: Kevin Parillo, 41, was shot in his upper body March 8 at his home in the 1000 block of 69th Street Court East in Rubonia. Parillo, who was confined to a wheelchair, died at his house.
Investigation: The Manatee County Sheriff's Office responded to a suicide at Skyway Memorial Cemetery, 5200 U.S. 19, Palmetto, following the incident. A witness watched Charles Baker, 49, shoot himself near his father's grave. Baker was suspected in Parillo's death.
Victim: Ruben Harris
Arrest: Earl Scott
Crime: Ruben Harris, 29, was found fatally shot April 30 in the parking lot of a gas station at the intersection of 301 Boulevard East and Ninth Street East.
Earl Scott became a person of interest after Manatee County sheriff's detectives released security footage of the suspect who they say followed Harris to gas station after an altercation at the nearby DaVinci's nightclub.
Investigation: A warrant for Scott's arrest was issued May 7. Scott was arrested Aug. 22 by U.S. marshals near New York City.
Court: Scott was transferred this month to the Manatee County jail. He was arrested on charges of murder and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
Victim: George Garnett
Arrest: Roy Harrison Jr.
Crime: Police say Roy Harrison Jr. shot his stepbrother George Garnett, 32, on May 10 during a dispute in the victim's yard in the 2900 block of 39th Street East. The victim's sister heard a gunshot from inside. Harrison allegedly shot Garnett a second time and fled. Garnett died shortly after midnight at Blake Medical Center.
Investigation: Harrison was arrested at Tom Bennett Park in East Manatee. He told detectives the gun was hidden under a pile of brush on 44th Avenue East. He was carrying a backpack with ammunition.
Court: On Nov. 8, Judge Peter Dubensky ordered Harrison incompetent to proceed with the trial, pre-trial hearings, entry of a plea and sentencing following evaluations by two doctors. Harrison, in custody of the Department of Children and Family Services, has been committed to a secure mental health treatment facility. The next hearing is set for June 2013, according to the clerk's website.
Victim: Alisa Hartmann
Arrest: Nicholas Hartmann
Crime: Detectives say Nicholas Hartmann struck his sleeping wife, Alisa, 38, repeatedly with an aluminum baseball bat May 15. Manatee County sheriff's detectives believe a knife was placed in the victim's hand after her death.
Investigation: Nicholas Hartmann arrived on the scene during the initial investigation, stepped out of his truck while holding a beer and said, "I did it. I want to die. Kill me now." After he was detained, Hartmann told detectives he was addicted to alcohol and drugs. A pair of shorts and towel covered in blood were found in the utility room. The bat was still wrapped in plastic packaging.
Court: Hartmann entered a plea of not guilty of second-degree murder May 18. The State Attorney's Office increased the initial charge to first-degree murder, a capital felony, May 30. A motion to seek the death penalty has not been filed. Hartmann's jury trial is set to begin April 22.
Victim: Natividad Faudoa
Arrest: Javier Aguilar
Crime: Natividad Faudoa, 32, was shot May 26 in the parking lot of DaVinci's nightclub, 105 Cortez Road. He was pronounced dead at Manatee Memorial Hospital. Javier Aguilar was named a suspect after Manatee County sheriff's detectives learned the two men had an altercation inside the nightclub.
Investigation: A warrant was issued for Aguilar, who was arrested Oct. 2 in Lakeland by U.S. marshals. Aguilar evaded authorities and was shot by an officer, causing him to crash into a tree. He was transported to the Manatee County jail.
Court: Aguilar entered a plea of not guilty Oct. 30 to a charge of second-degree murder with a firearm. The State Attorney's Office dropped a charge of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. His trial is set to begin Feb. 19.
Victim: Regina Nunez
Arrest: Cornelius Baskin
Crime: Regina Nunez, 23, was found dead June 7 by her mother inside her apartment in the 4200 block of 24th Street West. The case was not ruled a homicide until an autopsy showed Nunez died by manual asphyxiation June 6. Nunez's live-in boyfriend Cornelius Baskin became a person of interest in the case.
Investigation: Nunez called a friend the morning of her death saying she and Baskin had a fight. Baskin's cell phone records place him near their apartment at Nunez's time of death. DNA at the scene matched Baskin's profile. Baskin told police he left Nunez sleeping June 6. The next day Baskin was checked into the Manatee Memorial Hospital psych unit by his father, who told police and the victim's mother to check on Nunez. Baskin showed little emotion when informed of his girlfriend's death and did not cooperate with the Manatee County Sheriff's Office investigation.
Court: Baskin entered a not-guilty plea Oct. 24 to the charge of second-degree murder. His jury trial is set to begin Aug. 5.
Victim: Michael Yarn
Arrest: Steven Rotolo
Crime: Police say Michael Yarn and Steven Rotolo were in an argument June 27 at Yarn's residence in the 3800 block of Third Avenue Drive East, Palmetto. The men then engaged in a physical altercation. Yarn dropped a gun during the scuffle. Rotolo allegedly picked up the gun and ran. As Yarn chased after him, police say Rotolo shot the victim.
Investigation: A witness identified Rotolo as the shooter.
Court: Rotolo entered a not-guilty plea July 9 to the charge of second-degree murder using a firearm. His jury trial is set to begin Jan. 7.
Victim: Ceola Lazier III
Crime: Ceola Lazier III was shot multiple times while driving July 3 in the 600 block of 24th Street East. His vehicle came to a final rest at an angle with one tire on the sidewalk near the intersection of Seventh Avenue East. Lazier was declared dead at the scene.
Investigation: Detectives believe the victim, who was alone in the vehicle, was targeted. The incident is not believed to be gang-related but could have a drug-related motive. The investigation is ongoing by the Bradenton Police Department. Local FBI task force detectives are assisting.
Victim: Fred Edwards
Crime: Fred Edwards, 17, and another person were in a pink 2001 Chevrolet Monte Carlo on July 14 on the 500 block of Second Avenue East when a car drove by, firing in the victim's direction. Edwards was driven to Manatee Memorial Hospital, where the vehicle was abandoned with the victim inside. He died two days later after being listed in critical condition.
Investigation: Bradenton police detectives found large amounts of blood on the driver and passenger sides of the vehicle that had a bullet hole in the driver's door. Edwards had borrowed the car earlier in the day and complained to a friend about a black Nissan Altima chasing him. Early on, detectives thought the intended victim was the vehicle's usual driver, but had no evidence to support that. Three persons of interest were interviewed, but no arrests have been made in the case.
Victim: Ernest Curry
Arrest: Haywood Edouard
Crime: Ernest Curry, 22, and Haywood Edouard were taken to Manatee Memorial Hospital with gunshot wounds Aug. 5. Curry later died and Edouard was released after treatment. The two men and another person were suspected of trying to "rip off" another person in a drug deal in the 2600 block of Sixth Street East. A fight ensued and shots were fired.
Investigation: A fourth person at the scene of the shooting does not face charges in the case, pending the State Attorney's Office review that the incident could be justifiable through self-defense. All four people were armed during the incident. The other person with Curry and Edouard could be charged with felony murder.
Court: Edouard entered a not-guilty plea Nov. 20 to the charge of second-degree felony murder with a firearm. A case management hearing is set for Wednesday. His jury trial has not been scheduled.
Victim: Aureliano Quezada
Suspects: Unidentified. Four young men in their late teens or early 20s with dark hair. One older, stocky man with a large tattoo on his right forearm.
Crime: Aureliano Quezada and several other people were standing outside at Oakridge Apartments in the 700 block of 14th Street West, Palmetto, when five men approached the group in a robbery attempt. Quezada was shot during the Aug. 15 altercation.
Investigation: Palmetto police detectives are not sure the suspects initiated the incident with intent to kill. There is nothing in Quezada's past leading to a motive other than robbery. The men fled in a dark, possibly gray, four-door vehicle that could be a late model Mercury Grand Marquis or Ford Crown Victoria. The investigation is ongoing by the Palmetto Police Department.
Victim: Eric Span
Crime: Eric Span's partially decomposed body was found by his landlord Aug. 19 in his upstairs apartment in the 2200 block of Ninth Street West.
Investigation: Detectives have identified a person of interest through circumstantial evidence, and are trying to locate the person. The investigation is ongoing by the Bradenton Police Department.
Victim: Michael Blue
Arrest: James Bates
Crime: Michael Blue, 32, was found dead Aug. 30 in mangroves near a picnic area off U.S. 41 in Palmetto. His pockets were turned inside out and his belongings were scattered. James Bates, 43, was charged with robbery in the case.
Investigation: Because of suspicious circumstances surrounding Blue's death, Palmetto police detectives investigated the death as a homicide. In December, the medical examiner determined Blue died due to asphyxia by strangulation. Bates was additionally charged with second-degree murder Dec. 21.
Court: Bates pleaded not guilty to the robbery charge in October. His next court appearance is set for Jan. 28.
Victim: Claire Fleming
Arrest: Thomas Fleming
Crime: Manatee County sheriff's deputies responded to a domestic-related 911 call Oct. 1 at the Fleming residence in the 2300 block of 45th Court West. Claire Fleming, 67, was found dead in the master bedroom with at least one gunshot wound to her head.
Investigation: Her husband Thomas Fleming, a former Bradenton police officer, sat on his tailgate and said deputies "should just kill him." Police say Fleming confessed to a neighbor who called 911. The motive is unclear.
Court: Fleming entered a not-guilty plea Nov. 26 to the charge of second-degree murder using a firearm. The case is set to go to trial Aug. 5.
Victim: Brad Musgrave
Suspects: Three unidentified men (driver and two passengers)
Crime: Brad Musgrave, 26, was shot Sept. 30 at Braden Lakes Apartment Homes, 2900 50th Ave. W., in what detectives call a "drug deal gone bad." Musgrave succumbed to his injuries Oct. 2.
Investigation: Three men fled the scene in a dark-colored sedan after approaching Musgrave in the parking lot and opening fire. The investigation is ongoing by the Manatee County Sheriff's Office.
Victim: Jesse Schwartzman
Suspects: Two unidentified men
Crime: Jesse Schwartzman, 25, of Ellenton, was shot in the head Oct. 5 while driving in the 200 block of 10th Street West in Palmetto. Schwartzman lost control of his vehicle and crashed at a nearby gas station. He was taken to Blake Medical Center where he later died.
Investigation: Detectives believe a passenger in the vehicle Schwartzman was driving may have been the intended target. A four-door, late-model pick-up truck with chrome accents occupied by two men pulled up beside Schwartzman and fired shots. Detectives reviewed video that showed the truck making a U-turn and fleeing the scene. The investigation is ongoing by the Palmetto Police Department.
Victim: Bernadette Phicien
Crime: A couple on their Oct. 25 morning walk found a body later identified as Bernadette Phicien in the 2900 block of 24th Avenue East, Palmetto.
Investigation: Detectives are not sure if Phicien, a Haitian native, was killed in the same location her body was found. The Manatee County Sheriff's Office has worked with a local Haitian radio station in an effort to gain information on the case. Posters in English and Creole have been posted in the neighborhood where she lived. The investigation is ongoing.
Victim: Melvin Turner
Suspects: Two unidentified men
Crime: Melvin Turner, 46, was fatally shot while walking to work Nov. 1 in the 700 block of 61st Avenue East. A resident called 911 after finding the body in the duplex parking lot.
Investigation: Detectives believe Turner may have been killed during a robbery attempt. Posters asking for information have been posted in Oneco. The investigation is ongoing by the Manatee County Sheriff's Office.
Victim: Juan Santiago Reyes-Tapia
Suspects: Male with short hair and large build. Thin female with black hair and tattoo on her neck.
Crime: Juan Santiago Reyes-Tapia was stabbed Nov. 3 outside his residence in the 900 block of 61st Avenue Circle East while leaving for work. Reyes-Tapia was pronounced dead at Blake Medical Center.
Investigation: A man and woman allegedly approached the victim and engaged in an argument. After the man stabbed Reyes-Tapia in the chest, the suspects fled the scene. Detectives believe Reyes-Tapia was an innocent victim. The investigation is ongoing by the Manatee County Sheriff's Office.
Victim: Juan Gonzalez-Albino
Suspects: Three unidentified men
Crime: Juan Gonzalez-Albino was shot to death during a robbery Nov. 11 at the Oakwood Estates apartment complex, 900 block of 21st Street East, Palmetto. The victim and two other men were sitting outside when three armed men approached them on foot. The victims retreated inside.
Investigation: Detectives believe at least one suspect chased the three men into the duplex where Gonzalez-Albino's body was found. The investigation is ongoing by the Manatee County Sheriff's Office.
Victim: Rene Salinas
Crime: Rene Salinas, 31, was fatally shot Dec. 9 while stopped at the intersection of 27th Street East and 13th Avenue East. The shot was fired from a light-colored sedan that continued west on 13th Avenue East.
Investigation: Detectives are calling the incident a "random act of violence." A motive has not been released. The family is offering a $9,000 reward in the case. The investigation is ongoing by the Bradenton Police Department.
Other deaths investigated:
n Joanna Mojica, 26, was fatally shot July 18 by a Manatee County sheriff's deputy in the 900 block of 66th Avenue West. She and Jesse Flores were suspected of fleeing the scene of a burglary when she drove in the direction of approaching deputies. Fearful for his life, the deputy fired at the vehicle. Mojica was fatally wounded. Flores was charged with felony murder.
n Two additional cases by the Manatee County Sheriff's Office were ruled justifiable through self-defense by the State Attorney's Office. Homicides ruled justifiable are not counted in Florida Department of Law Enforcement murder statistics.
n The State Attorney's Office is reviewing evidence in two additional cases from Bradenton that have not yet been ruled homicides.
Elizabeth Johnson, Herald crime reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041. Follow her on Twitter@EJohnsonBHcrime.