It's been nearly a year since a Street woman was stabbed to death in her home and three years since a young Edgewood man was shot and killed in a fire station in Joppa.

No one has been charged with either murder.

Deborah Burgess and Tariq Alston are among seven people murdered in Harford County in the past five years whose murders remain unsolved and cases remain open.

Randolph Goodson, Waverly Corey Lewis, David Byrd, Tyree Brown and Brandon Saunders have been murdered in Harford County since 2006; none of those cases have been solved either.

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"I see it on the news every day, cases not being solved," Daphne Alston, Tariq Alston's mother, said just days before the third anniversary of her son's murder.

Daphne Alston, like anyone who has lost a loved one at another person's hand, wants her son's killer brought to justice.

The Alston case has been reviewed by the Harford County State's Attorney's Office, and while prosecutors believe there may be enough evidence for an arrest, there is likely not enough to get a criminal conviction.

"They're saying they've done all they can do, unless they get a gun or someone to come forward," Daphne Alston said.

Murder cases that fall into a middle ground of enough circumstantial evidence for an arrest, but not enough to make a solid case in court, are frustrating for people like Daphne Alston, who want nothing more than a killer brought to justice. Maj. Doug Verzi, commander of the investigative services bureau with the Harford County Sheriff's Office, said loved ones of murder victims are not alone in that feeling.

"It's equally frustrating for the detective," Verzi said.

Witnesses and evidence

The challenges investigators face in the Alston murder case are ones that plague most cases, police say.

Finding people willing to talk to police and gathering sufficient evidence to ensure a conviction can be challenges in any investigation, not just a murder case, according to Verzi and Sgt. Daniel Staniewicz with the Harford County Sheriff's Office.

"A lot of these cases are cases that we have an idea who the people are," Verzi said of the open murder investigations.

Both Verzi and Staniewicz, who is assigned to the criminal investigation division, major case and homicide, say during the course of their careers, they have found people in the community are less and less willing to come forward and share what they know.

"The community involvement in any investigation has diminished," Verzi said.

He said the unwillingness to come forward in murder cases can stem from any number of reasons. Fear of retaliation, protecting the culprit, not wanting to get involved or trying to handle the situation on their own are all common reasons people may not share what they know, Verzi said.

In almost every case that remains unsolved, Verzi and Staniewicz say community input could help build a solid case capable of convicting a murderer.

"It's just that one tip that the investigators hadn't heard yet," Staniewicz said.

Investigators also don't want to give families false hope.