Durham police seeking new leads in 2016 unsolved murder

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DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – The Durham Police Department is seeking new leads in the murder of a young man in 2016, who was shot and killed in front of his family while they unloaded groceries.

The shooting happened at the Willowdaile apartment complex near the intersection of Horton and Guess roads around 11 p.m. on Nov. 29, 2016.

Cesar Yanez-Ortiz, who was 24, died that night. Police believe the shooting was random.

“His wife and his son, to have to come outside right before the holidays and see their husband and father murdered right there in front of their residence,” said Sgt. J.D. Piatt.

Piatt and other investigators with the Durham Police Department returned to the scene of the shooting Tuesday, in an effort to call attention to an estimated 250 unsolved murders in the city that date back to the 1950s.

“In the vast majority of those cold cases, we do have suspects or do have good solid leads, and we just haven’t been able to prove it enough to take it into a courtroom,” said Piatt.

He said the city averages about three dozen homicides each year, Piatt said, most of which are solved.

In the case of Yanez-Ortiz, police never developed a detailed suspect description. Investigators say a man attempting to rob him walked up to him and shot him twice. They don’t believe the man ended up stealing anything before he ran off in the direction of Horton Road.

“If no one’s standing out here to see it, then we don’t have a witness. And, that’s been a really big lynchpin in our investigation,” said Piatt. “While I can’t say that we haven’t generated any leads, I can say that is pretty frustrating that we don’t have somebody in prison right now.”

It’s not clear if anyone else was involved in the shooting or if the gunman eventually got into a car and drove away. Sgt. Piatt said police reviewed surveillance video from the area but would not say if it showed anything that helped in the investigation.

The police department plans to highlight a different cold case month. There’s a website with more information about those cases.

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