GALVESTON — The 13 deaths ruled homicides in Galveston County last year represented a historic low not seen since the middle 1960s.

The county’s drop in the number of reported homicides continues a trend that saw a 3.8 percent overall national decline in violent crimes reported in 2011 as compared to the previous year, according to data collected by the FBI.

Only 10 of the 13 deaths ruled homicides were the result of injuries that happened in the county. The remaining three involved two prison inmates and a 16-month-old Oklahoma child who died at a Galveston burn center, according to data collected from the Galveston County Medical Examiner’s Office.

The year 1966 marked the last time the county saw fewer than 14 homicides, and 1964 marked the last time the county saw single-digits, according to data from the medical examiner’s office and the Texas Department of State Health Services Center for Health Statistics.

The 2012 totals fell well short of the 30 killings per year that the county averaged since 1969, or the 26 average annual killings since 1956.

Experts say there isn’t one answer to why violent crime has decreased, and police said a focus on community awareness has aided in the prevention of violent crime.

“It can only be that it’s following national trends, that the population of this region is diverse and, therefore, follows the trends of the rest of the country as well,” said Dr. Stephen Pustilnik, Galveston County’s chief medical examiner.

“We’re not isolated from the rest of the country in either the good or ill that’s plaguing our society.”

Galveston County’s decline in the number of homicides coincides with a similar regional decline. Harris County reported 506 killings in 2009 and saw the number drop to 354 in 2011. And, as of Dec. 26, Harris County had 360 homicides in 2012, according to data from the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences.

As suburbs bloom, the rate of homicides has remained relatively low, and there hasn’t been a corresponding increase in the number of homicides, said Alan Bernstein, the Harris County Sheriff’s Office director of public affairs.

Of the 10 homicides that were the result of fatal injuries suffered in Galveston County, two have not resulted in arrests.

Here is a list of people killed in Galveston County, according to the Medical Examiner’s Office:

• Marion Glenn Hines, 50, was the county’s first homicide victim of the year the evening of April 5. Police said Hines was a bystander to a fight in Texas City, and he died of a wound from an errant bullet fired from a gun that hit the ground. Charmon Leon Smith was charged with murder and released from jail on $100,000 bond.

• Timothy Clark Merrill, 44, was shot and killed May 26 by a Houston police officer who arrived at his house on Galveston’s West End and found Merrill inside, police said. The home was ransacked, and Merrill pointed a handgun at the officer, who then opened fire and struck Merrill several times, police said. A grand jury took no action on the case, said Galveston County Criminal District Attorney Jack Roady.

• Robert Mitchell Lyles, 42, was found shot to death the morning of June 9 in a shed behind a vacant house in Texas City. Brandon Marlow Miller, 21, remained jailed on a $1.65 million bond on murder and other charges.

• Dr. Mark K. Holcomb, 61, died June 23 after suffering a single gunshot wound to the stomach at the retired surgeon’s weekend home in Hitchcock. Police arrested Dennis Roy Redding, 64, on a murder charge and he was released on a $150,000 bond.

• Joyce Annette Timler, 73, was found June 28 buried in her backyard in League City. Her death was ruled a homicide, and police arrested Timler’s son, John Scott Timler, 54, on a charge of abuse of a corpse and forgery. He remained jailed on a $102,500 bond.

• Caesar Robert Nunez, 36, died Aug. 20 at the University of Texas Medical Branch of blunt head trauma. Authorities are investigating whether Nunez, a Daily News employee, died as a result of an Aug. 17 altercation in the newspaper’s parking lot. Although Galveston police have a known suspect, the case will be referred to a grand jury.

• Jutina Silvey, 49, was found Sept. 9 on a rock groin in the Gulf. Galveston police said she was beaten and strangled and that her acquaintance, Michael Anthony Alicie, 28, of Texas City was arrested on a murder charge. His bond was set at $100,000. Alicie wasn’t listed as an inmate.

• Thomas Bryan, 29, was found Sept. 10 stabbed once in the chest in the street in front of his mother’s house in La Marque. Police arrested Percy Johnnell Robinson, 49, on a murder charge, and his bond was set at $100,000. Robinson is not listed as a jail inmate.

• Angela Renee Lopez, 42, was fatally shot Sept. 15 outside her residence in Santa Fe. William Ray Parker, 45, a friend of Lopez’s, was charged with murder, police said. He remained jailed on a $400,000 bond.

• Jackie Dean Bergara died Oct. 28 of a knife wound. Galveston police arrested and charged her boyfriend, Richard Allan Beverly, 44, with murder. Beverly remained jailed on a $255,000 bond.

Contact Reporter Chris Paschenko at 409-683-5241 or chris.paschenko@galvnews.com.

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(7) comments

Cindy Milina

Of the 9 homicides, 4 were shooting related with one of those being self defense by a law enforcement office (LEO). Could the reduction in the homicide rate be tied to the increase in gun sales over the last 4 years? It is statistical fact that states with higher per capita gun ownership enjoy lower crime rates while states / cities with the strictest gun laws such as Chicago, NYC, and Washington D.C. have the highest. The reason is simple, criminals don't obey gun laws and prefer unarmed victims.

Ann Derek

I agree completely with your assessment, tootoolz. Plus the fact that public housing in Galveston is now non-existant & all those felons have moved to the Mainland. But they'll be back & so will the murder rate.

Gary Miller

U.S. violent crime was down 3.6 % in 2012 after falling in each of the last three years.
Gun sales were up 4.5 % in 2012 after increasing over 4 % in 2011 and 2010..
Connect the dots.
More guns equal less violent crime.
Law abiding citizens used legally owned guns to kill more gun toting criminals.
The deaths of those criminals were counted in the total gun deaths but were judged to be "justifiable" homicides.
Non criminal deaths actually fell more than the 3.6 lower count indicated.
Connect the dots.
More guns equal more dead criminals.

Gary Miller

Another fact not mentioned by the liberal media is America's fastest growing industry since Obama was elected has been the gun and gun sport industry.
They alone added more jobs in manufacturing, sales and service than Obama claims he created. He hasn't even given them any bailouts or stimulus money. Just a reason to grow.
America's "top gun salesman" wants to shut down our fastest growing manufacturing industry.

Marine One

The 2nd Amendment is a rare light in an ever darkening room. Governments will use the excuse of trying to protect the people from maniacs and crime, but are in reality, it is the bureaucrats protecting their power and position. In all cases where guns are banned, gun crime continues and often increases.
I'd say homicide rates have declined due to the rapid increase of legal personal gun ownership and training.

Gary Miller

Democrats revere the 1st amendment.
It protects lying the same as truth.
It's purpose is to protect speach government or citizens don't like.
Speach government likes and truth need no protection.
The 2nd Amendment protects the 1st Amendment.
All ten amendments protect the people from government by limiting what government can do.
Progressives hate the ten Amendments because it limits what they can do.

.

Kevin Lang

Lying is not protected by the 1st Amendment. Libel, Slander, Fraud, and Perjury are all forms of lying, and all are illegal. Democrats and Republicans both support the laws against lying. Of course, both fully support the legal loopholes they use during campaign swings, but that's beside the point.

In some circles, baseless and unfounded generalizations would classify as lies. I guess you're happy that Democrats support your right to use them. I wonder how the truth-loving conservatives feel about that?

Following your string of generalizations, a progressive could say that conservatives hate the ten Amendments because it limits what they can do. Conservatives can't force Muslims to take off their head and face coverings, you can't just round up all Muslims into interment camps as suspected terrorists, and you can't force Jews to wish you a Merry Christmas.

The Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the subsequent amendments all attempt to clearly define the roles and responsibilities of the government and its citizens. In exercising your rights, you cannot step on another's ability to exercise their rights.

Before giving all the credit for homicide rate reductions to CHLs and other legal gun ownership, consider that a murderer is generally not going to give you time to draw, aim, and fire. I would think that if there was a high correlation between the two, we'd have seen at least some period of increased rates of self-defense fatalities. What about the rage-based homicides? I don't think most of those folks think about much of anything other than wanting to pump you full of lead. I seriously doubt they're thinking about the possiblity of you having a gun and being in a position to use it. Then, there's the ambushes, where the intent is to shoot you before you can even think of putting up a defense. I can't ignore that gun ownership may have some impacts on it, but I think the biggest reason for the decline is that there are proportionately fewer people wanting to kill other people.

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