Of all the frustrations police have in their daily jobs, at the top of the list is having a case come to a standstill without resolution, no arrests of the perpetrators and no justice for the victims.
“We take it personally,” Davenport Police Capt. Brent Biggs said. “It is our job to arrest the criminals, and to help the victims get a measure of justice or closure.”
Davenport has its share of what are known as cold cases.
But one of these cold cases stands out among the others. The reason is that the investigators of the case for decades say they believe they know the person who committed the crime, but have no evidence to pursue charges.
The case is from 1979 and it involves the death of 12-year-old Roger Warren.
On Aug. 19, 1979, Roger was last seen walking toward the Crescent Bridge on the Mississippi River with a man who had promised him a 10-speed bicycle.
His younger brother, Gary, 7 years old at the time, watched him walk away with the man. Roger was wearing a yellow T-shirt, blue jeans and red and white tennis shoes.
It was the last time anyone saw Roger alive.
For a week Davenport and Rock Island police and firefighters, along with many concerned residents of the Quad-City area, searched the river and combed its banks for any sign of the boy.
On Thursday, Aug. 23, authorities found Roger’s red and white tennis shoes, positively identified by his mother, Joyce.
Then at about 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 25, Davenport firefighters found Roger’s body about 150 feet downstream from Wapello Avenue.
Davenport Police Detective Robert Graff was fishing on the Mississippi River with his wife that Saturday. He was the on-call detective and had his radio with him. He got the call that a body had been found in the Mississippi River and that firefighters were bringing it to shore.
“I knew who it was,” Graff said in conversations with the Quad-City Times. “They were towing him in with a rope.”
The boy’s hands had been tied and there was a rope around his neck, Graff said.
"Anytime you deal with the death of a child it takes a toll on you," Graff said. "Children are not supposed to end their lives like that. They’re supposed to grow old and have children. It’s just heartbreaking."
Scott County Medical Examiner Dr. Rollin Perkins could not determine how long the boy’s body had been in the water as it was badly decomposed.
It also was not possible for Perkins to tell if Roger had been sexually assaulted even after a three-hour autopsy at St. Luke’s Hospital, according to stories published in the Quad-City Times.
Davenport Police Detectives James Hammes and Ted Carroll worked the case hard.
At one point Roger’s younger brother was hypnotized to see if he could give a better description of the man he saw walking away with his brother.
Police even employed the services of a clairvoyant to try and solve the case.
Through hard work, Hammes, Carroll and Graff developed a suspect who cannot be named as no charges could ever be filed.
There just wasn’t enough evidence.
“I’m pretty sure I know who did it,” Hammes told theTimes. “There’s a lot of circumstantial evidence, but without a confession and a positive identification, or some kind of forensic evidence, we’re at a standstill.”
In a Times story published Oct. 21, 1979, then Chief of Detectives Capt. Charles Borgstadt said, “The right circumstances are surrounding the suspect — everything is pointing to him, but we don’t have any concrete evidence.”
According to Dodd’s story, the man hired an attorney and refused to take a polygraph examination. Police even got a search warrant and searched properties the man owned. The searches yielded nothing.
Borgstadt explained that Roger hung around the fishing spots along the Mississippi River and became acquainted with the suspect. “The boy did favors — like getting bait and soda pop — for extra spending money.
“We know Roger knew our suspect,” Borgstadt said.
In a May 1, 1980, Times story, Lt. James Van Fossen, head of the night detectives, said "It makes you feel like your hands are tied. You reach a point where you're relatively certain you know who did it, but due to the laws of the land you cannot arrest him."
Van Fossen said at the time that police are "keeping track" of the man.
"He is considered dangerous and might very well do the same thing again," Van Fossen said at the time.
In his recent conversations with the Times, Graff said that the murder of a child like Roger is not something that just happens.
"You don’t just get up one day and say, 'I’m going to kill a child today,'" Graff said. "It's a long process that leads up to murder."
In July 1994, television station KWQC did a re-enactment of the case to see if someone’s memory could be sparked, Roger's brother, Gary Warren said.
Nearly 40 years later, the case still bothers Hammes, who kept Roger's photo on his desk until the day he retired.
Gary Warren said that when Hammes retired, he gave him that photo of Roger.
"This one has haunted me," Hammes said. "It has haunted me. And there’s nothing I can do about. I would love to see that case solved before I die."
The deaths that police have to investigate are often hard to deal with emotionally, Graff said. But the death of a child is especially difficult because "they are so easy to victimize."
"I would love to see this case solved before I die," Graff said.
Biggs said that homicides are never closed and that the smallest piece of information may yield big results.
"There's nothing insignificant in these cases," Biggs said.