Unsolved cases still stick with retired detective years later

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- Days before he retired, Marion County Grand Jury Investigator Roy West pulled two dozen bankers boxes from the backroom of the IMPD Cold Case office that were full of files and notebooks and photographs about the murders he wasn’t able to solve over the course of four decades as a homicide detective.

The cases that continue to bug West even in retirement are those like the murder of Tracy McCaulley, who was found dead on the sidewalk in the 900 block of North Capitol Avenue shortly after dawn on Aug. 31, 1996.

McCaulley was a working man, murdered after he got off a bus delivering him home from one of his three jobs.

“It appears from all indications that it had been a street robbery. He was shot and robbed,” said West, remembering the original 911 call warned that three men were standing over McCaulley’s body and were taking his money.

“One of the first arriving officers observed two black males walking southeast from that direction and as he was approaching the scene. He observed them and when he looked to the right, he saw the victim on the sidewalk, and then when he looked to the left, he saw they took off running.”

A witness provided police with a description of one suspect, leading to a sketch.

“There were seedy characters who hung around that area,” said West. “Even that composite looked like somebody that was at that location.”

When West caught the McCaulley case, the file about the murder of Damon Turner was already on his desk from April 27, 1995.

Turner’s body was found in a field near the site of the former Timber Ridge Apartments in the 3300 block of Meadows Court.

“It was a Thursday at 9:45 in the morning,” said West. “He had been shot multiple times. He was known as, ‘Fatback.’”

A man named Phil White told West he had dropped Turner off at the apartment complex at about 1 a.m. on the day his body was found.

“The victim said he had to take care of some business and about 2:30, 3 o’clock that morning, White said he got a page from the victim, said he was about to get into a fight, didn’t say where or who with.”

West traced the murder scene back to an apartment populated by a crew that called itself “the New York Boys.”

“Upon entering the apartment, I knocked at the door, entered and right away I could see bullet holes in the TV in the apartment. There was a large group of people in there and the investigation centered around all these people.

“A lot of these people had been here from out of town for a short period of time, all drug dealers, so all that had occurred in that apartment.”

West said the case went to the Marion County Grand Jury but was withdrawn, so it remains an unsolved cold case.

In August 1997, West said John Harris didn’t take the hint to stay away from the Hoosier Apartments at 430 Massachusetts Avenue.

His girlfriend had been murdered there a month before, but Harris came back, spent the night with another woman and woke up to make a phone call. He bought a bag of chips and sat on a sixth-floor landing overlooking Alabama Street as if he was waiting for someone to show up.

Harris was found shot to death, the bag of chips under his body.

“In July of 1997, a young girl by the name of Sholanda Meals was shot and killed inside apartment 205,” said West. “John Harris was seeing Sholanda Meals during that time. It was believed her death was drug related.”

West said for a while detectives questioned whether Harris was involved in Meals’ murder though he was eventually cleared.

“He had been staying away from the apartment building for a short period of time after the death of Sholanda,” said West. “Ballistics examination showed that Sholanda Meals and John Harris were both shot with the same gun.”

West said in the summer of ’97 there were a lot of crack cocaine users living in the downtown apartment building.

Both cases remain unsolved.

West said Alvin Scott was also playing a dangerous game when he was killed in January 2001 on Indianapolis’ west side.

“It was a Tuesday at 1:57 in the afternoon at the Village Square Apartments. He was in an apartment at 6359 West Monarch Drive, apartment C,” said West, quoting from his meticulous notes on the case. “The apartment was set up to primarily deal drugs out of. They had a PlayStation in there playing games and selling drugs out of the apartment.”

West said a Merrillville man from northwest Indiana rented the apartment and set up the operation.

“At some point people entered the apartment. There were shots fired. An individual nicknamed 'Squirrel' by the name of Tyrrell Winfield jumped from a second-floor landing bedroom window and fled the scene. There were several people who arrived shortly after the shots were fired. All were carrying guns.”

West said those gunmen were Scott’s friends and they didn’t have the murder weapon with them.

“Alvin Scott had been shot multiple times and during recovery of evidence, in addition to drugs, there was also counterfeit money that was recovered that I believe may have had some connection with the death,” said West. “This led back in to people in Gary, Indiana, as well as people in that immediate area as far as involvement in drug activity and the case remains unsolved today.”

West retired after 47 years as a police officer and detective on May 31 of this year.

Of the more than 100 homicide cases he solved and won convictions for over the decades, more than 20 still stick in his memory, all of them one crucial phone call away from being solved.

If you have information on these or any other cases, call Crime Stoppers at (317) 262-TIPS.

Even after 20 years or more, if your information leads to a conviction, it could result in a $1,000 reward.

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