See updates at end of story
Walking the dog Friday morning before dawn on the year’s shortest day, I came across a grisly sight near the New To Las Vegas world headquarters: the body of a homeless man on the side of a deserted semi-commercial cul-de-sac. Blood coated the asphalt around him. Nearby: an overturned shopping cart containing his possessions.
I called 911, and Las Vegas Metro Police units quickly responded. The street was closed off for about 12 hours as ambulances, detectives, police photographers, coroner office personnel and eventually some kind of hazmat clean-up team worked the site. Officers confirmed to me–and to the Las Vegas news media–that the man had been stabbed multiple times with a knife, likely overnight some hours before I passed by. A murder investigation is underway.
This morning, a full two days later, I walked that block again with the dog. I observed several elements of note, all of which I documented in a photo I took that is nearby.
First, someone had put a memorial lit candle by the spot where I found the body.
Second, the hazmat team did such a poor job of cleaning that the victim’s blood was clearly visible in the street more than 48 hours later (that reddish rectangle to the left of the candle).
Finally, the victim’s meager possessions were still in the shopping cart, which had been righted and put on the sidewalk.
I am advised that it is official Metro policy to leave the belongings of deceased homeless folks where they are found if in a public place. Two officers told me Metro feels it doesn’t have the legal authority to take away stuff that isn’t evidence. Even putting aside the obvious lack of dignity and humanity, that’s ridiculous. Authorities surely can temporarily store such goods until the victim is identified, and any next-of-kin notified and given the chance to retrieve the possessions.
This is taking way too far the semi-official Las Vegas slogan, “What happens here, stays here.”
Update on December 27, 2018:
If a report on KVVU-TV, the Fox affiliate, is to be believed, the killer might have been asleep in a nearby dumpster when I found the body, and not discovered by the police who quickly responded. According to the report, one Jarrid Johnson, 25, walked in the county jail three days later and confessed to the crime. He was charged with murder with a deadly weapon. The homeless person victim was identified as Ralph Franzello. He reportedly caught Johnson going through his things, a fight ensued and Johnson repeated stabbed Franzello, quite possibly with the victim’s own knife.
Further update on January 1, 2019:
A notice on a Las Vegas funeral home website says Franzello was 63 years old, two decades older than the original estimates in news account of a man in his 40s. No other details were given.
Yet another update on January 3, 2019:
Nearly a week after KVVU-TV, citing a police report, identified the victim as Ralph Franzello, the Clark County Coroner’s Office confirmed the ID and ruled his death a homicide. Stated cause of death: “multiple sharp and blunt force injuries.” That certainly would account for all the blood I saw when I found the body. Meanwhile, according to the website of the Clark County Detention Center, Jarrid Johnson, the accused killer, remains jailed in lieu of $500,000 bail and has some kind of hearing scheduled for January 18.
Agreed. Good question.
I wonder what other cities do with the belongings? There has to be a better way to handle it!