No new murders; GRPD delves into 2013 cases


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Grand Rapids police are taking advantage of a lack of recent murders in the city to try to solve the unsolved. They have arrested two people in connection to the August 2013 homicide of a 16-year-old.

Luis Gonzalez, a Union High School junior, was killed in an Aug. 24, 2013 drive-by shooting on Coate Court SW near Grandville Avenue. The Grand Rapids Police Department has said he was not the intended victim.

Juan Chavarria and Jani Gonzalez now face perjury charges for allegedly lying to police during their investigation into Luis Gonzalez’s death. They do not face murder charges.

Juan Chavarria and Jani Gonzalez. (Courtesy the Kent County Sheriff's Department)
(Juan Chavarria and Jani Gonzalez. Courtesy the Kent County Sheriff’s Department.)

The case is one of three unsolved homicides that Grand Rapids detectives are focusing on now while there’s a lull in the number of murders within the city.

There hasn’t been a homicide in the City of Grand Rapids in six months.

“Although we’ve had several months with no homicides, it’s not like the cases that we have aren’t being worked,” GRPD Lt. Pat Merrill said. “A lot of our investigators are using this time to really bear down and really put some effort into some homicide cases and bring this to closure.”

Three homicides in particular are being revisited: The July 2013 murder of mother of three Shanetta Franklin; Gonzalez’s August murder; and the murder of Domnick Floyd, father to a new baby at the time.

Since Floyd’s death on Oct. 31, there has not been a homicide in the City of Grand Rapids.

“[Just] because you haven’t heard about a homicide case for a few weeks or even a few months, they don’t go away. We never stop,” Merrill said. “They’re very difficult cases because in many cases, you have a lot of ‘he said, she said.’ And to dig through that takes a lot of effort. So we actually isolate some investigators and give them the opportunity to really focus on that specific case and just drill through that case piece by piece by piece to get to the truth.”

That’s where investigative subpoenas — like the ones used in the investigation of Gonzalez’s case — can come in handy, Merrill said. Perjury charges are sought with the hope of finding truth among the lies.

“The last few years, we’ve used investigative subpoenas a little more often than we did in the past. It’s an extremely effective tool, but it takes a little bit of time,” Merrill said. “A tremendous amount of manpower, a lot of effort goes into these, so this lull that we’ve had, we really taken that chance to really grab hold of this and use these processes that we have.”

Those perjury charges can be serious. Depending on the nature of the case and the suspect, a perjury charge could land someone in prison for life.

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