Statistics are more than numbers, cold case murder victims’ families say

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE)– The Knox County Regional Forensics Center released statistics Monday, of the deaths the office investigated in 2020.

Homicides in Knox County were up by 72%, and gun-related deaths increased by 62%.

These statistics are more than numbers. They are people, and they represent loss for grieving families.

In the city of Knoxville, 13 of the deaths are still unsolved, leaving families without any answers or justice.

Derrick Perry is one of those unsolved cases.

“He loved to dance, he loved to act like he can sing, you know. But yeah, he was so playful and kiddy and my baby,” Toya Johnson, Perry’s mother, said.

Johnson said her son was the life of the party, was very outgoing and spontaneous.

She said like many teenage boys, he also knew how to get into trouble, and unfortunately the kind of trouble he got into led to gun violence.

“He had a baby, turned 18, graduated and then got murdered,” Johnson said.

Johnson said her son was working to get out of East Knoxville and get away from the trouble.

He graduated from Austin-East High and planned on going to college.

“I’m not going to say he was perfect, because he wasn’t. He had his troubles, but he was making a way. You know, he was trying to make his way out of it,” Johnson said.

On Sept. 19, 2020, officers responded to a murder at 3623 Lilac Ave.

Perry was was found dead on the back porch with an obvious gunshot wound.

“I have to go to his cemetery to talk to my son, and I talk, I used to talk to my son every day. He made my day. If I was mad, I could call him. Now, you know, I have to go to the cemetery. We lost someone special to us. And it hurts. And we do, we hurt every day,” Johnson said.

Eight months after his death, no one has been convicted of his murder.

“Every day is a struggle to me. And to see his maybe, she just turned one on the fourth without him, that was, Mother’s Day was so hard,” Johnson said.

Johnson said she’s just praying someone will eventually come forward, especially now that the Knoxville Police Department has the anonymous tip line, CrimeStoppers.

“If anybody knows anything, I wish they would say something,” Johnson said.

Anytime she hears of another shooting with a victim, Johnson said she has flashbacks to Sept. 19.

She said she knows she’s not alone.

Jessica Slivenski said she often has flashbacks whenever her phone rings.

That’s how she learned her sister died.

“(My mom) told me Katelyn was shot and killed and found, maybe, like half a block from where she lived in Western Heights,” Slivenksi said.

Slivenski said growing up, her sister was the typical younger sibling.

“She was really sassy, she was quirky, mean as most small siblings are. She was a good person. She loved to be outside, wanted to be the center of attention,” Slivenski said.

She said that as Katelyn got older, she changed some, got into a crazy lifestyle, but kept her sassiness.

“She was still sassy. She just got meaner (laughs). But, she ended up becoming a mom, and she ended up being a good mom,” Slivenksi said.

Katelyn had two kids when she lost her life at 24 years old.

Slivenksi said her sister also knew how to get into trouble, sometimes with drugs, and she believes that’s ultimately what led to her sister’s untimely death.

Katelyn was shot and killed on June 30, according to police reports.

She said several people had the same story about what happened just before her sister died.

“She apparently lost power at her house, and she was going to different places, to different resources because her phone apparently died,” Slivenski said.

Slivenski said she was told someone was going to let her sister charge her phone, but then a couple called her sister’s name, she went over to them and was never seen again.

Nearly a year later, Katelyn’s murder is still unsolved.

Slivenski has little hope that it will ever be resolved.

“Maybe one day they’ll open it back up and they relook at the evidence, but without the gun that killed her, or any videos or anything like that, there’s just, at the end of the day, even if I want them to reopen it, they’ll just be stuck in the same spot,” Slivenksi.

She said her mother ultimately couldn’t handle the death of Katelyn, nor the lack of leads in the case making it go cold.

Slivenski’s mother passed away in December.

It’s been hard for her, losing both her sister and her mother within six months.

Now, she’s engaged and won’t be able to plan the wedding with her mom or sister.

Slivenski said it’s sad to hear 50 people died from homicide in 2020, and even more sad to know 26 murders have already taken place in 2021.

She said if her family can’t get justice, she hopes others, like Johnson, do.

If anyone has more information about the murders of Derrick Perry or Katelyn Slivenski, you can report to CrimeStoppers anonymously at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).

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