The reward poster showing Katherine Janness and her dog Bowie walking near Piedmont Park before their murder. Photo: ABC News

Atlanta continues to be impacted by the “Covid Crime Wave,” as Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms calls it. There were a devastating 157 homicide cases in 2020, breaking a two decade record. The count has already surpassed 100 victims in 2021. According to The New York Times, the dramatic increase is partly because of the pandemic’s effect on police departments and at-risk populations. 

One of the violent crime cases currently being discussed is the murder of 40-year-old Katherine Janness and her dog Bowie. According to 11Alive, Janness was stabbed multiple times at Piedmont Park in the early hours of July 28, 2021. Atlanta Intown reports that detectives have spoken with a potential witness to her and Bowie’s murder.

Rumors of a serial killer on the loose began to circulate as the Federal Bureau of Investigation began working on Janness’ case. The FBI can be called in for other tasks apart from serial killer cases, such as hate crime investigations and assembling criminal profiles, so this does not necessarily mean officials are calling this a serial case.

Also, many connected this case to another unsolved murder that same day. Just a few hours later, 18-year-old Tori Lang was found shot dead in Yellow River Park, and her car was found burned just a few miles away. Although they happened simultaneously, there currently is no information that links the cases together. 

There are no current suspects for either cases. According to 11Alive, police might be releasing fewer details to protect misinformation in a court case. “The last thing you want is to come out and provide misinformation,” said former police officer and now attorney Mike Puglise. “A criminal defense attorney is going to jump all over that.” Contact 911, the anonymous Crime Stoppers Atlanta tip line at (404) 577-8477, or if you discover any new information on Janness and Lang’s cases.

Gwinnett police Sgt. J.R. Richter wants everyone to stay safe. “That means being aware of your surroundings, staying in well-lit areas, letting friends and family know where you are, not being distracted by your phone and trusting your instincts,” said Richter.

This crime wave is a significant political threat to Bottoms and may be one of the reasons she decided not to run for a second term. According to NPR, she explained that there was no single reason for her decision. “It is abundantly clear to me today that it is time to pass the baton on to someone else,” said Bottoms on May 7, 2021. 

Former Mayor Kasim Reed, who left office in 2018 after two terms, has decided to run again after Bottom’s decision, making him one of five mayoral candidates for the Nov. 2 race. Atlanta’s murder total has almost doubled since Reed left office, and he has received many donors since his announcement to run again. “People remember what the city was like when I was mayor, and they have come to the conclusion that things were better when I was mayor,” said Reed. These “things” allude to crime rates. Reed has expressed confidence in decreasing Atlanta’s crime rate because he has done it before.

Attorney Sharon Gay, another mayoral candidate, disagrees with Reed’s plans. “I think it is simplistic for him to say, and for our citizens to assume, that because he has been mayor before, he alone has the answers,” she said. Others are uneasy about Reed’s possible reelection due to the ongoing federal corruption investigation that compromised 10 of his staff members. City Councilman Andre Dickens, who is also running for mayor, expressed his concerns about Reed. “We spent a lot of time over the last four years trying to prove to the citizens of Atlanta, … the state, … employees of the city and others, that we are ethical … despite a cloud of corruption that was over the last administration.” He does not believe the previous source of corruption should come back into play.

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