With community help, detectives solve homicide of man found in burned-out car

Publish Date 01/26/2021
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With nothing but a burned body in a charred vehicle, Kansas City Police homicide detectives have solved the murder of 25-year-old Devonta Dunson on Dec. 4 thanks to help from residents in the surrounding neighborhood.

Keith Hernandez, 22, has been charged with second-degree murder, armed criminal action, knowingly burning and evidence tampering in Dunson’s death. Hernandez had fled to New Mexico but is now in custody in Kansas City.

Someone spotted a body in a burned vehicle the afternoon of Dec. 4 near 10th Street and Winner Road and notified police. Officers saw a body lying face-down on the back floorboards of the SUV. The vehicle was burned so badly officers could not read the vehicle identification number. Police later identified the victim as Dunson.

In addition to the crime scene and arson investigation, detectives searched the area for any home security cameras. They located several, and homeowners agreed to share the videos. Videos from the night before showed a person next to the SUV when it erupted into flames. Detectives were able to follow him across several cameras in the neighborhood as he walked to a nearby house.

The victim’s family members provided additional clues, such as whom he had been spending time with leading up to his murder. This led detectives to that person’s social media profile, and that of his close friends and girlfriend. The pictures on the social media profile looked like the same man walking away from the flaming SUV. Detectives found a crime scene outside of the girlfriend’s house, complete with broken glass and apparent blood on the curb. They were able to get nearby home security video that captured the suspect shooting into the victim’s vehicle with the victim inside. The suspect then went inside, changed clothes, and came back out. After several attempts, he was able to use his own vehicle to jumpstart the victim’s vehicle. He drove it toward the area where it was later found burned with Dunson’s body inside.

Two days later, Hernandez left for New Mexico with family members. Police recovered his vehicle in Kansas City, and they found the apparent presence of blood inside. The Crime Lab’s DNA analysis indicated the blood belonged to Dunson.

With little to work with, KCPD homicide detectives and Crime Lab personnel worked diligently to find the evidence needed to identify, arrest and prosecute the suspect.

This case also demonstrates how community members can assist police with solving crime. The home security footage proved to be vital. Kansas City residents who have home security cameras and want to help make their community safer can register their location with WatchKC. This simply lets KCPD investigative personnel know what addresses have cameras so detectives can save valuable time tracking down the footage. Police do not have access to the video, but it does let detectives know whom they can contact to request footage should a crime occur in your area.