City scaling back on murder investigations

In the two months since a woman died in a third unsolved attack, the Bremerton Police Department has spent about $70,000 on a ramped-up investigation that sought to connect two murders and a victim that survived.

Now, facing budget constraints, spending and overtime hours is slowing, but police say the case remains the priority for the department.

During a February Union Hill neighborhood meeting that drew more than 150 residents, Bremerton Mayor Patty Lent promised to throw all available resources at the search – which translated to about $1,250 per day.

The bulk of the cost, $68,000, is overtime pay and benefits for officers and the remainder for office, travel and miscellaneous expenses, according to Bremerton City Financial Services Director Becky Hasart.

Lent said on March 29 that police spending had reached a $100,000 cap.

"What I said to the chief was, when you reach $100,000, [the finance department] needs to know and we need to prioritize funding so our citizens feel safe," she said.

From the city finance department's point of view, Hasart said that Lent's statement is not accurate. Investigation is ongoing and doesn't have a cap on the cost.

"We're going to do what we need to do," Hasart said.

Bremerton Chief of Police Craig Rogers said the mayor had told him about the $100,000 limit, but they hadn't reached that mark and overtime has scaled down in the last few weeks.

"We were working around the clock with following leads from tip lines," he said.

The FBI, Port Orchard Police Department and Kitsap County Sheriff's Office also provided officers to assist, and they'll be called in again as needed, Rogers said.

Four full-time Bremerton detectives are still assigned to the case, Rogers said, and it remains "priority one" for the department.

In May 2011, Sara Burke, 19, was stabbed and killed while walking on Warren Avenue, and a few weeks later in June 2011, Kenny Cobb, 51, survived a stabbing and assault from behind while he was walking near the intersection of Burwell Street and High Avenue. Most recently, on Feb. 3, the body of Melody Brannon, 61, was found dead on High Avenue near Bremerton High School. Police have yet to release any information on how Brannon was killed.

For months now, police distributed a description of a person of interest and opened a tip line, but don't have any further information at this time, said Lt. Peter Fisher.

The tip line, at (360) 473-5481, received more than 500 responses as of early March, Fisher said. For concerned residents, Fisher noted that officers are on "high-visibility patrols" and the department will continue to schedule community meetings.

"We continue to dedicate every resource we have," he said. "As new information comes to light, we'll put that out."


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