Child homicides go unsolved; why witnesses don't come forward

Qwaishuan Henning hadn’t even made it to his 20th birthday when he was gunned down on the streets of Milwaukee. It was May 2017.

"It isn’t real at one point, you want revenge at one point, you pray for the person that did it at one point…," said his aunt Rose Henning, when describing the pain of mourning her nephew. 

Henning says while his death was a painful shock, it wasn’t necessarily a surprise.

"He had rough patches, but what teenage boy in Milwaukee nowadays isn’t going through something on the streets," asked Henning. "He wasn’t a bad kid, just trying to fit in."

Rose Henning

Rose Henning

Then, just four short years later, just as the family was beginning to heal from Qwaishuan’s murder, the truly unthinkable happened. Qwaishuan’s 13-year-old sister, Nevaeha was shot dead sitting as a passenger in a car. The family was forced once again to grieve a child killed by gunfire in Milwaukee.

"Every time you go out not everybody is going to make it home," said Henning. "January 9th my niece was the one who didn’t make it back."

Father Terrell Ware didn’t want to have his face shown for Fox6 cameras. He told us he gets too emotional, especially talking about his daughter.

"She was a spitting image of me, acted the same, looked the same," explains Terrell.  "We were two peas in a bucket."

Nevaeha’s childhood bedroom, once the scene of Tik Tok dances and Youtube videos, is now a memorial for a little girl.

"Sometimes I cry all day and can’t get her off of my mind so I come in here, drop my knees and pray," said Ware.

Terrell says he asks God every day: why us?  Losing two children in just four years seems like a terrible injustice. Even more devastating, there are no arrests in either case.

"The bullet didn’t just fall out of the sky," said Henning. "Somebody has to know exactly what happened."

That’s what Milwaukee Police detectives are working to figure out. Of the seven juvenile homicides this year, only one has been cleared. Milwaukee Police Detective Lt. Justin Carloni says juvenile homicides are simply harder to solve.

"When dealing with juveniles we see there’s often a clique or small group that associate with each other," said Lt. Carloni. "There seems to be a loyalty to the group and not necessarily the individuals, so if one of them falls prey to a homicide or a shooting, there seems to be a loyalty not to talk to the police."

According to Milwaukee Police, since 2014 the department's clearance rate for juvenile homicides is 60%. In recent years, that clearance rate has been much worse. In 2019 every juvenile homicide went without a single arrest. In 2020, it was two-thirds. So far this year 86% are unsolved.

Tight-lipped witnesses are a source of frustration for families and Milwaukee police.

"Ten percent of the people account for most of these crimes and if we’re not keeping them off the streets we continue to see victimization," says Carloni.

Lt. Justin Carloni

Lt. Justin Carloni

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Terrell Ware doesn't know if they'll ever find the people who killed his daughter and son, but one thing is for sure: they will rest in peace in their childhood home. And Nevaeah's childhood room will always be hers.

"It’s going to stay like this, it’s going to get turned into nothing else, this is her room and it’s going to stay her room," insisted Ware.

Terrell Ware will never know the woman she could have become, so instead, he will hold on to the child that she was.

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