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SPECIAL REPORT: How social media helped a father solve his daughter's murder

A Father's Plea

Many of us use it every day, multiple times a day. Our social media is a part of our everyday life, but it's also playing a crucial role in solving crimes.

In some cases, social media is giving victims a voice. One local dad used his voice to help solve his daughter's murder case.

A Facebook page is all Kalvon Hawkins has left of his daughter. As he scrolls through the photos, he comments on the memories behind the smiles.

"She was a fun-loving, little kid. Everybody loved her," said Hawkins.

In July of 2011, Ne'Keisha Hodges-Hawkins had just graduated high school. She was looking forward to college.

"She never even got to see her diploma, at all," said her dad.

Ne'Keisha's Michigan City High School diploma came a week after her family buried her.

"She was murdered July 24, 2011, " Hawkins said. "It was four days before her 18th birthday."

Ne'Keisha died at Kreuger Memorial Park in Michigan City from a gunshot wound.

Although there were many witnesses at the park, no arrests were made. Time went by agonizingly slow for Ne'Keisha's parents; they were always wondering who killed their daughter.

Hawkins said a Facebook Live he did four months ago changed everything.

In the video you can hear the desperation in Hawkins' voice.

"I'm going live out here, at the Michigan City Police Department, trying to get help for my daughter," he said in the video.

He said he was fueled by comments on Facebook, that someone, might know something. He showed those comments to police, but said they weren't able to do anything. He was frustrated and tired; so he took his passion to Facebook.

"They was like, 'There's nothing we can do,' so I went outside and found out how to go live on Facebook, and it went from there," said Hawkins.

In the video he describes what happened to his daughter and why he is out of options.

"I go in here, I see people talking about my daughter's murder online and these people still won't help me."

That 20-minute video went viral. It had likes, shares and comments increasing by the minute. Hawkins said the attention from the video, created new interest in Ne'Keisha's case. Five years after her death, but only a little more than a month after the live video, Michigan City police made an arrest.

The Law Enforcement Side

Mitch Kajzer is a St. Joseph County cyber crimes investigator. He said social media has completely changed the way crime is investigated.

"It's part of every investigation," said Kajzer. "Probably upwards of 95 percent of our cases, we determine information from doing our online searches that we can add to the case."

In the 2016 South Bend case of Tyre Bradbury, prosecutors had to prove he was involved in a gang. They gathered most of their evidence used in court, on Facebook.

Bradbury told police about his friends and the gang, known as Eastside. In court, prosecutor Amy Cressy used photos of his friends that proved that.

"We drew photographs that had been publicly posted off of their Facebook. It established their affiliations together, showed them flashing gang signs," said Cressy.

Kajzer said when you're posting on social media, it's fair game for police.

"When you're giving up information online and making posts, you're actually turning over that information to someone else," he said.

In this case, that information went to a jury, who convicted Bradbury.

Cressy said that guilty verdict didn't come from social media alone, but that it played a role.

"Anything that helps make my case better, makes it more clear for a jury to understand, that's great," she said. "And if it's produced by a defendant, even better."

Answers at Last

Kalvon Hawkins stares at a photo of Ne'Keisha on Facebook. She's wearing a yellow shirt and a bright smile. It's a photo of her he could never forget, because it's the one that was taken moments before she died.

"A parent is not supposed to bury a kid. A kid is supposed to bury their parents," he said.

Her case, was nearly buried by time. Hawkins wasn't sure if he'd ever get justice for Ne'Keisha or answers surrounding that summer day in 2011.

He said those answers, that he has finally received, wouldn't have been possible without Facebook Live. It's a tool that wasn't invented when Ne'Keisha died.

"They forgot about it, but I didn't," said her dad. "We have to live with it, every single day."

Michigan City Police didn't comment on whether Facebook helped solve Ne'Keisha's murder. They cannot say anything on the case since it is ongoing.

Charles Gerron, 21, is charged with her death. His trial begins April 3.

Hawkins said his fight for justice still isn't over. He said he won't stop fighting until he gets a guilty verdict.



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