A St. Paul mother is suing the city for access to the police investigative file into the unsolved killing of her son 14 years ago.
Sharon Munson filed a suit in Ramsey County District Court after the St. Paul Police Department told her they wouldn't release the records into her son Eric Woulard's death because the case is still active, according to the suit.
Woulard was shot to death in his mother's van on the night of June 16, 2007, while parked on Van Buren Avenue in the Frogtown neighborhood. He was 21.
His death was investigated by St. Paul police but remains unsolved. Although one person was arrested in 2008, no one has been charged.
To Munson, it feels like Woulard has been forgotten.
"I have called and called. I have not received return calls back, which is very disappointing," Munson said. "That's what led me to seek out help from others."
In February, Munson submitted a data practices request for information including the investigatory file on his death, police reports and supplements by officers on the scene that day in 2007. She also requested video and photographs from the scene and other police communications.
Munson's requests were denied. The case remains open, and the 30 years required before an investigation goes public has not passed, a data technician wrote in a letter, according to the suit.
Munson was shocked to hear that Woulard's case still was open. Her calls and visits to the Police Department have given little indication that there has been activity of any kind, she said. Munson will turn 60 this month. "I'll be gone in 30 years," she said.
St. Paul communications director Peter Leggett said in an e-mail that the case is currently open and that police remain focused on finding the person responsible. They have not yet received the court filing, he said.
Rich Neumeister, an advocate for open government, said going to court is the only option to get around the statute that keeps active criminal cases confidential.
"A lot of the issues come into play now — is it really open, or is it just open to say it's open and they're not devoting any resources to it, or there's not enough clues," Neumeister said. "Are the police doing their due diligence? Are they looking at it every six months?"
There's very little precedent for a case like this because there's no payout and all costs are out of pocket, said Munson's attorney Paul Bosman.
With the data, Munson hopes to hire a private investigator who has a history of solving cold cases. Munson hopes the records will show whether police dedicated proper resources to finding justice for her son.
"For me to be denied the right, the legal right of my child's report for that investigation … this is another slap in the face. I think the St. Paul Police Department should be held accountable," Munson said.
Knowing what happened could comfort Munson's two grandchildren, Eric Jr., 15, and Trinity, 13. Trinity was born after her father was killed.
"I know they struggle a lot, and I know that Eric Junior struggles tremendously … not understanding why he doesn't have a father, why him," Munson said. "He wants to know who killed his dad."
"If we're not killing Black folks, we're locking them up," Munson said. "We're not solving their pain, then you have parents that have died without their children's cases being solved, you have angry children that don't know what the heck happened. That domino effect spills over into schools and behavior," she said.
Munson has not had any communication with the city since her lawsuit was filed.
Zoë Jackson • 612-673-7112 Twitter: @zoemjack