"It really is our obligation to do the best for these investigations," Verzi said.

The best, Verzi explained, is not just charging for the sake of clearing cases, but also having enough evidence to convict. He said anything less would be irresponsible.

"We're not doing anyone any good if they walk out the door a free woman, like Casey Anthony," Verzi said.

Family's frustration


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Imagining her son's killer coming to trial and being found not guilty because of a lack of evidence is a distressing thought for Daphne Alston.

"I would feel terrible," she said.

At the same time, she said she is frustrated by the situation and the amount of time that has passed without anyone being charged in her son's killing.

"I just can't understand why Tariq's murder is not getting put away in court," Alston said.

With the tools available, the number of people at the party and the amount of time since the crime, Alston feels her son's murderer should be behind bars by now.

"There is never a closed, unsolved homicide," Staniewicz said.

Only when all investigative leads dry up, leaving not even the slowest trickle of information, do cases shift to the "cold" category. All seven unsolved murders from the past five years are open, active investigations by the sheriff's office. Investigators with the sheriff's office also investigated 16 other murder cases within that same time period, all of which are closed.

Aberdeen police handled four murders within the past five years. Havre de Grace police handled two and Bel Air police handled two. In 2008, Maryland State Police investigated a fatal shooting on I-95 near Route 24.

Alston

Both Staniewicz and Verzi believe someone in the community could help bring the Alston case to a close and help the family find closure.

On July 13, 2008, Tariq Alston went to a private party at the Joppa-Magnolia Fire Hall. Around 11:45 p.m. that night, someone called 911 to report someone at the fire hall, in the 1400 block of Mountain Road, had been shot.

When police arrived, they found the 22-year-old Edgewood man suffering from at least one gunshot wound to his head. Mr. Alston was treated at the scene and taken by ambulance to a local hospital, where he died.

"There were well over 100 people at that firehouse and not one person has given us what we need," Staniewicz said.

Detectives have a person of interest in the case and are confident that someone knows what happened that night.

"They're pretty confident that persons within the community who are very close to the Alston family know who did this," Verzi said.

At the time, police said there were reports that the shooting may have been retaliation for something that happened in Baltimore.