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Bremerton police release sketch of murder suspect — Neighbors concerned by violent crimes; Mayor Lent calls for stronger police presence
The body of 61-year-old Melody Brannon was found on the 1300 block of High Avenue around 6 p.m., Feb. 3 and police won’t say by whom.
Brannon’s murder now joins the unsolved Warren Avenue murder of 19-year-old Sara Burke in occupying the minds of the Bremerton detective unit who has made it a “top priority,” according to Lt. Peter Fisher.
Bremerton police released a sketch of the murder suspect Tuesday and will be instructed by Bremerton Mayor Patty Lent to increase police presence in the Union Hill neighborhood during coming months to combat the concentrated number of violent crimes that happen there.
Brannon’s is the third murder within four years. All three murders were committed within one mile of each other.
The suspect in Brannon’s murder investigation is described as a “a light-skinned black or mixed race male, in his late teens or early 20s.” The suspect was last seen near Brannon’s house during the time of the murder, which police will not release. He is believed to be about 6 feet tall and slender, wearing a black or navy blue watch cap and having a blemish near his nose.
Brannon lived alone and moved to the neighborhood in 2011. The Kitsap County Coroner’s Office said that staff contacted her next-of-kin, who live near Federal Way, on the same evening she was found dead.
Fisher said that the police will not release details on how Brannon was murdered, where in the home she was found or how long she was deceased when investigators arrived at the crime scene as that information is “still sensitive to the investigation.”
Andy Oakley, crime statistician for Bremerton Police Department, said that the one-mile radius around the Brannon murder is known for having “a lot of misdemeanor assaults” as well as minor fights reported around Bremerton High School. In addition, Oakley’s numbers show 33 burglaries and 15 “more serious” assaults, including three with a deadly weapon charges since 2009.
The rate of violent crimes in the neighborhoods between Naval Avenue. and Warren Avenue. have residents uneasy.
“Crimes seem to be escalating lately,” said Andrew Babine, neighborhood resident. “There have been a lot of suspicious burglaries, missing people and unsolved murders.”
Babine’s friend, Miguel Sonny Scott, 19, went missing Oct. 27 last year. He was last seen in Evergreen Park about three blocks from Warren Avenue. His family is not sure that he is alive, but is offering a $5,600 reward for any information leading to their son.
“I think there’s more going on than what the police are telling us. Too much is going on and not enough answers,” said Bryce Dugger, who recently witnessed a heroine drug bust by his house near Naval Avenue.
Beth Pitts, whose family has lived in the neighborhood for more than 30 years said that she has noticed “quite a bit” of drug activity in the area as well, which she believes is contributing to violence and also burglaries. Pitts said that police have been patrolling and visiting residents door-to-door to ask about suspicious activity.
“Neighbors are writing down license plates of suspicious cars,” Pitts said. “Whatever is happening is progressing and we’re all trying to be aware.”
Lent explained that in years past, when the police department had more funding, there was a police officer permanently stationed in the parking lot of Bremerton High School. In light of the Brannon murder the police presence in the area should be increased again, said Lent.
“Visual deterrence can do a lot to tell people in the neighborhood that police are watching,” said Lent. “This is our priority and we’re going to have a bigger presence in the area.”
Residents are concerned, but still have a great deal of pride for their neighborhood.
“This area gets a worse rap than it is,” said Cody Brown, a resident. “There’s a lot of stuff happening here, but it’s still where we live.”