DES MOINES, Iowa -- The homicide levels in 2017 were astonishing.
"It is our highest levels we have seen in 30 years," said Des Moines Police Sergeant Paul Parizek.
The first of 25 homicides that took place throughout the year began when gunshots rang out early New Year's Day, killing 18-year-old Frederico Thompson.
"I'll be dealing with it for the rest of my life," said Mikalen Sellers, who was Frederico's girlfriend at the time of his death. Her pain is still fresh a year later, as Frederico's case is one of seven homicides still unsolved. "It feels like he's not getting any justice. This person did that and they are just walking freely, but he's not here," she said.
The feelings are mutual for the families of homicide victims Frederico Thompson, Adriel Ward, Stephen Kim, Choice Elliston, Ruot Gach, Darnell Lee, and Jason Smith, but police say they are just one step away.
"We know a lot of those who did it, but it is just that one piece that we need to put that puzzle together so we can take it to the county attorney," said Sergeant Parizek.
Mikalen knows that missing puzzle piece in all of them is witnesses coming forward.
"Nobody wants to be a snitch. Some people fear that if they found out who told, then people are after you."
Police feel, with help, they can take all of that fear off of the street and bring justice to the hurting families.
Parizek said, "It is beyond me how somebody can see the suffering and not say, you know what, I'm going to help these folks out and give them justice. Give them peace of mind that at least the person responsible is in jail."
The national average for clearing murder cases according to the U.S. Department of Justice was 59% in 2016. In 2017, the Des Moines Police Department posted a clearance rate well above average, at 72%, but Sergeant Parizek says they won't rest on statistics.
"They work from the time those cases happen and they may not see their families for days, depending on how the trails go. I see them sleeping at their desks, I see them sleeping on the floor. These guys are committed to solving these crimes."
It's an attitude that could still offer hope for the seven families awaiting that final piece of closure.
"All the homicides, I've known other homicides and the people, and my heart breaks for their families, too," said Mikalen.
Over the last to years, $50,000 in reward money was privately donated to help solve unsolved homicides. Police say they've given out a few thousand dollars, but there is plenty left for witnesses to come forward and put those responsible behind bars.