Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri turns up the heat on community’s cold cases

BY YOLANDA COWART, Founder & CEO of the Springtime Club, Inc.

CLEARWATER — Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri is turning up the heat on the community’s cold cases for unsolved murders. Gualtieri recently dedicated a wealth of resources to The Springtime Club to aid the organization in its efforts to provide support to families impacted by homicides and the victim survivors of unsolved murder cases.

The Sheriff connected the Club to Pinellas County Crime Stoppers; a community-based program involving citizens, the media and law enforcement in the fight against crime. It operates on the premises that someone in the community, other than the person that committed the crime, has information that can produce new leads and help solve a case. The resource not only allows citizens with information to remain anonymous, but also makes them eligible for a reward of up to $1000 if the tip leads to an arrest.

Through the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, The Springtime Club was able to place all of its cold cases in the Crime Stoppers campaign, which include Clarence Bolden, Melanie Warren, Leon Dash Jr., and Marco Waters. The Club also has plans to add two new cases to Crime Stoppers. The cold case of Myles Simpkins, a 19 year old that police believe was killed execution style on September 20, 2003 in the City of Largo, and an active investigation on the murder of Gregory Williams, who was also killed at the age of 19 in a drive by shooting in Largo on November 23, 2012.

The Springtime Club serves as advocates for families of cold cases and victim survivors of homicides in the African American community. A grass roots organization comprised of women from North Pinellas it is non-for-profit corporation with very limited resources. With the assistance of the Pinellas County’s Sheriff’s Office, The Springtime Club will be able to strengthen programs, broaden outreach, and increase its resources for victims’ survivors.

“Sheriff Gualtieri has already made a significant contribution to this Club on behalf of our surviving families”, shared the Club’s President, Donna Evans. She says that in addition to the connection with Crime Stoppers, Gualtieri has made his entire staff available to the organization. The Community Patrol Unit to assist with their public awareness campaign, the Homicide Investigation Unit to assist with cold cases, the Victims Advocate Team to help them serve their surviving families, and the Sheriff’s Public Information Office to help promote meaningful events.

Evans says that Gualtieri has also given personal attention to the families of their cold cases by serving as a champion for the organization’s causes and providing connections to help them gain exposure. The Sheriff’s Office not only helped to promote, but also had several representatives of his key staff present at the Club’s 1st Annual National Day of Remembrance for Murder Victims Program on September 25th. On the following Sunday afternoon, September 28th, Gualtieri joined The Springtime Club and the Bolden and Dash Families on the local talk show “Wake Up With Edie Darling” at the Free Fall Theatre in St. Petersburg where he educated the community on the reason homicide cases go cold and explained why closure is so important for the families of unsolved cases.

Andrea Bolden says that she understands how important the Sheriff’s resources are from both sides of the coin, as a victim survivor herself and as a club member trying to support others who have suffered a lost. “We have been amazed by the commitment and dedication that Sheriff’s Gualtieri has displayed”, asserts Bolden. She believes that having the Sheriff’s Office crime squads and investigation units performing in an outreach and networking role will add value to the Club’s work and comfort for the victim survivors they serve. “Just their presence means a lot to the families”, says Bolden.

Evans shares that enthusiasm and thinks that by assisting the Club’s families of cold cases and other jurisdictions with homicide investigations, the Sheriff’s Office involvement has turned up the temperature on cold cases, revitalized the Club’s public awareness campaign, and renewed victim survivors hope.

If you have any information regarding these cases you can help turn up the heat by calling the anonymous tip line at 1-800-873-TIPS (8477) or texting a tip by texting TIP144 plus your tip to CRIMES (274637).

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