Israel Thornton case one of dozens of crimes waiting for tips

CLEVELAND -- Wednesday would have Israel Thorton's first day of first grade, a day he'll never see: killed by a hit skip driver while walking to his Cleveland school bus stop last October.

That driver was 24-year-old Jerome Lee, say police.

ORIGINAL STORY: Arrest made in boy's hit-and-run death

Nearly 10 months later, a call to Crime Stoppers helped prosecutors charge Lee with aggravated vehicular homicide and felony hit-skip.

Lee was already in jail on other crimes, and now faces a $500,000 bond.

RELATED: Lee pleads not guilty in boy's hit-and-run death

"Sometimes time goes by and people remember something, maybe they are a little bit scared initially to call in, but just because time goes by, doesn't make that person's information any less credible," said Detective Jennifer Ciaccia with the Cleveland Police Department.

Cuyahoga County Crime Stoppers takes every tip called or texted or emailed in and passes it on to the investigating officer. Tipsters stay anonymous, and can be rewarded up to $2,000 from the program.

"If you think you know something, and you think it might not be important, it's great to just let the detectives decide whether or not it's important, just go ahead and call that in, crime stoppers gets all the information where it needs to go and the detectives will take that next step," said Det. Ciaccia.

"It can't be too small. We just never know where that push is going to come that will lead to a break in a case like this," she said.

RELATED: Family reacts to arrest in child's hit-and-run death

Crime Stoppers is seeking tips on dozens of unsolved crimes, including the deaths of firefighters William Walker and Ted Wright.

Donations from friends and family members can also raise the reward's value

The family of Cleveland Clinic worker Stephen Halton Jr., killed on Euclid Avenue in January, is offering $20,000 for an arrest in his death.

MORE: Family and friends seek answers in Clinic worker's death

Loved ones of Aliza Sherman have raised the reward to $50,000 for information that leads to an arrest in her March 2013 downtown murder.

MORE: Aliza Sherman murder: One year later

"In cases that have very little evidence, we rely very heavily on witness information, and tips from the community," said Ciaccia "You just never know where that push is going to come from, or you're going to get the information that leads you to actual evidence, that leads you to solid witness information, solid interviews."

Text TIP657 with your message to CRIMES (274637). You can call the 24-hour hotline at 216-252-7463. You can also go to the website and submit a tip by clicking here.

Thornton's family is preparing to celebrate what what have been the boy's 6th birthday Sunday at Emery Park on West 130th Street.

Lee is back in court Monday, August 18th for a pre-trial hearing.

Follow WKYC's Sara Shookman on Twitter: @SaraShookman


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