KCK Police cold case squad clears four murder cases, charges filed

Published: Sep. 20, 2023 at 10:40 PM CDT
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KANSAS CITY, Kan. (KCTV) - When Kansas City, Kansas Police Chief Karl Oakman created a dedicated cold case squad in January of last year, they had 285 murder cases to review.

They have so far identified suspects in a total of 11 murders going back nearly five decades. On Wednesday, police provided details of the four they have officially closed, three of which have resulted in charges being filed.

Dion Estell was just 15 when he was killed in 1997. His mother remembers how she found out.

“When they found him, they wasn’t sure,” Lillie Estell recounted, “and they came and asked me, showed me pictures and asked me was that my child and I said, ‘Yes, that’s my child.’”

He was found shot and lying in a creek bed along a windy road, deserted road.

This year, a tip led detectives to a man named Leon Caldwell. He’s in prison for another murder. The tipster said he admitted to another inmate that he’d killed Dion. Police said he initially told detectives he didn’t do it then requested a follow-up meeting with the detectives to confess, providing details only the killer would know. He’s in prison hospice, police said, and told them he wanted to come clean before he dies.

The teen’s brother, Daniel, and mother say it’s some relief to know who did it, but they want to know more.

“I want to know why,” said Daniel Estell. “Why you took my little brother life? That’s what I would ask.”

Cold Case Squad detectives held up photos of the victims whose murders were finally solved. One victim’s photo was not included because she was too young at the time of her murder to have had a photo taken.

In 1976, a newborn girl was found in an apartment dumpster, her umbilical cord still attached. The baby was wrapped in dishcloths and stuffed in a plastic bag. Using DNA, cold case detectives were able to track down her mother. Detectives concluded the baby’s mother was also a victim and it was the grandmother responsible. That grandmother is now dead.

READ MORE: DNA testing helps police solve 1976 cold case of infant found disposed in apartment dumpster

Sameemah Mussawir was killed in 1996. She was 45 and had two small children.

“She had a daycare. She sold dinners. She sold bean pies,” said her niece, Arvetta Davis. “She did it all.”

District Attorney Mark Dupree charged one man with both her murder and the murder of Christina King two years later. Dupree said detectives sent DNA samples from each crime scene to the KBI lab for analysis. It came back as a match to the DNA profile of Gary Dion Davis, Sr. He’s not charged with two counts of second-degree murder. If convicted, he could face a life sentence.

Oakman said this is just the beginning.

READ MORE: KCK Cold Cases unit links suspect’s DNA to two previously unsolved homicides

“It may not be today. It may not be tomorrow. In fact, it may not be this year, but there’s going to be a time. You may be in the drive-thru line. You may be at the grocery store. We’re going to eventually get you,” said Oakman. “Mister Davis went on with his normal life like nothing happened.”

Knowing someone is being held accountable is something, but the family members who got the news made it clear that nothing really makes the pain better.

“Because I miss my child every day,” said Lillie Estell. “That was my baby, and he’s gone.”

Police said Caldwell, Dion Estell’s accused killer, was due to be released from prison next month after completing his sentence on another murder. He might not live long enough for Dion’s family to see him face trial.

Police said Gary Davis was a stranger to the two women he’s accused of killing. He’s local to the area, but because he was a long-haul trucker, they are actively looking at other crimes locally and across the United States to see if he’s connected. They’d like to hear from anyone who may have information.