A representative of a small family foundation said the family wanted to do something to aid in the speedy arrest of the suspects who killed Ava Christopher in a horrific T-bone collision in Midtown about 12:30 a.m. July 25.
David Wayne Brown, CrimeStoppers of Memphis and Shelby County executive director, said the family representative contacted him Friday morning (July 28), saying the family wanted to double the reward for the tip leading to an arrest from $2,000 to $4,000.
By the time the representative presented a $2,000 check to Brown later that day, the reward was $6,000. That is because during a late morning news conference that day, Brown announced CrimeStoppers was doubling the reward for homicide tips from $2,000 to $4,000.
“We decided to act with a dramatic number to encourage more tips in the face of increases in serious felonies, gun violence and especially in the murder rate,” Brown said.
“As of yesterday (Thursday July 27), the number of first- and second-degree murders stood at 189. We have said to ourselves, ‘If not now, when?’”
Brown said, as a Monday (July 31), there had been 219 homicides in Memphis, with 194 of that number subject to first- or second-degree murder charges for the assailants.
Memphis is on pace to break the 2021 record of 356 homicides.
Brown said Christopher, 20, had left a work event when the car she was driving was T-boned at Central and Cooper by a red Dodger Charger that ran a red light. The Charger, which was southbound on Cooper, had been reported stolen the day before, Brown said.
The driver and a woman passenger exited the Charger and walked away from the crash. Brown said police have received a couple of tips about the crash, but as of Tuesday afternoon, no arrests had been made.
Anyone with information about the suspects can call 528-CASH. Tips can be made anonymously, with tipsters receiving a code number.
In a GoFundMe post, Mary Claire White, owner of Sugar Ghost Ice Cream And Bubble Tea in the Broad Street Arts District, said Christopher “brightened the lives of every person she met including her family, friends, and the customers of Sugar Ghost lucky enough to wander in looking for a little joy in their day.
“When Ava was behind the bar, they stumbled into more than a little joy. Instead, she provided pure, unadulterated happiness in her smile, her eyes, and her gorgeous personality…”
White’s post added that Christopher was involved in theater, scuba diving, and her studies in biology at the University of Memphis. She also carried a deep love of animals with plans to become a veterinarian after graduation.
Funds raised will be “donated to the cause of animal care and rescue,” White said.
Brown of CrimeStoppers said behind the homicide numbers is “untold suffering and real human cost in our community. We are hoping that this new number – $4,000 – will push anyone with information on a murder toward making an anonymous call or text to us at 528-CASH.”
Every tip to CrimeStoppers, founded in 1981, is anonymous, with phone identification stripped from the contact. Tipsters receive coded numbers. They can call in later to see if an award is available.
CrimeStoppers tips have helped law enforcement solve 43 murder cases over the last two and a half years. However, the number of solved cases has fallen off this year, Brown said.
In 2021, 19 murders were solved thanks to CrimeStoppers’ tips. The number was 18 in 2022. This year, so far, there have been six solved cases, although the overall volume of tips received is at a record high.
Brown said the murder awards tend to come in spurts as information is collected and passed on to CrimeStoppers for its citizen Awards Committee to decide on award amounts.
(Jerome Wright is deputy editor of The New Tri-State Defender.)