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Raleigh Police Probe City's First 3 Homicides of '08

Raleigh police made an arrest in the city's third murder early Friday morning. For Raleigh to see its third murder so early in the year is uncommon, police said. In 2007, Raleigh did not reach three murders until Feb. 22.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Raleigh police made an arrest in the city's third homicide early Friday morning.

Shortly before 1 a.m., police announced the arrest of Joel Mica Barnes, 20, in the death of Phillip Michael Hart, 21. No address for Barnes was given.

Hart was still alive when he was found outside a home on Damon Court on Wednesday evening, but he later died at WakeMed. A state medical examiner determined on Thursday that foul play was involved. Police have not released the cause of death.

Earlier, residents in the Damon Court area said that the homicide had unnerved them.

"We saw the police pull up, and we still wondered what was going on but didn't have a clue," neighbor Ursula Banks said. "It's kind of bad ... when you just kind of don't feel safe."

For Raleigh to see its third homicide so early in the year is uncommon, police said. In 2007, Raleigh did not reach three until Feb. 22.

"It is somewhat unusual that we would have three murders in that time span," Raleigh police spokesman Jim Sughrue said. "But murders don't really follow any kind of pattern."

Raleigh still statistically has a low murder rate – roughly six homicides for every 100,000 people. There were 22 homicides in Raleigh in 2007, up from 19 in 2006.

"We might go weeks or even months without having a murder, based on our past experience," Sughrue said. "So it's really impossible to read anything into the fact that we've had three in such a short period of time."

Five males suspects have been charged in the death of Felipe Montalvo-Montalvo, 32, whose body was found in the 4200 block of Bland Street on the morning of Jan. 6. Investigators have not said how the victim died or if his death was gang-related.

Derrick Dangelo Swinson, 23, was found suffering from gunshot wounds behind a house in the 1300 block of Walnut Street on the evening of Jan. 8. Swinson later died at WakeMed. Police have not named any suspects in his death.

Although Barnes was being held in jail without bond, investigators also continued to search for evidence in the Hart's death.

"The detectives are learning more all the time," Sughrue said. "But in the best interests of the investigation, we have to safeguard the information for right now."

Anyone with information that might assist detectives is asked to call Raleigh police at 919-890-3555 or CrimeStoppers at 919-226-CRIME.


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