Friends of the woman found stabbed to death in Piedmont Park early Wednesday said some of the city’s surveillance cameras weren’t working at the time of the brutal attack.
A security camera at an intersection near the park’s entrance captured the last known picture of Katherine Janness and her dog before the two were killed. But other cameras in the area weren’t working, including one facing the entrance, according to family members of Janness’ longtime girlfriend.
“If it had been working, it would have shown something,” Heather Johnson told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Friday.
Johnson’s cousin, Emma Clark, got concerned early Wednesday when she couldn’t reach Janness, her partner of seven years. Clark used a cellphone app to track Janness to the park, near the couple’s home. But the tracker showed Janness wasn’t moving, Clark’s father later said.
Not far from the park’s entrance, she found the couple’s 3-year-old dog, Bowie, dead. About 100 feet away was Janness, who had been stabbed multiple times and died from the attack.
While there have been numerous violent incidents in and around Piedmont Park over the years, investigators believe Janness’ fatal stabbing was the first homicide to occur inside the park in more than a decade. As of Friday afternoon, Atlanta police had released few details about the murder investigation that has left city residents and parkgoers on edge.
Piedmont Park is equipped with surveillance cameras that are operated by the police department, park officials said Friday. But so far, authorities have not released photos of any suspects or said whether any persons of interest have been identified in the case.
On Saturday, Atlanta police said the cameras inside the park are operated by another city department.
“Upon review, the cameras inside Piedmont Park are operated by the Department of Parks and Recreation,” Sgt. John Chafee said in an emailed statement. “Footage from APD cameras in the area is currently under review for any footage that may help this investigation. The Atlanta Police Department continues to work with the DPR on this investigation.”
The grisly scene, described by police as “gruesome,” is believed to be the first homicide in the park since the May 2009 death of 43-year-old Patrick Boland.
Boland was stabbed in the chest during an early morning attack near the park’s lake, investigators said at the time. While the homicide was initially believed to be the result of a robbery, investigators later said they thought the man may have been “cruising” for sex when he was killed.
The man’s murder was the first to occur inside Piedmont Park in 20 years. More than 12 years later, his homicide remains unsolved, the department confirmed Friday.
As they did then, Atlanta police have stepped up patrols in and around Piedmont following Janness’ death in an attempt to assuage residents’ fears and reassure them that the park is safe. The department increased officers’ presence in the area this week and added mounted patrols along the popular trails.
In 2010, a new surveillance system was installed at the park to help police monitor criminal activity, the AJC reported at the time. Those city-operated cameras are monitored at the department’s video integration center, along with private security cameras that have been registered with the department, APD spokesman Officer Steve Avery said.
Investigators declined to say exactly how many cameras are set up in the park or where they are located, calling that information “sensitive operational data.”
Courtney Bugler, the Piedmont Park Conservancy’s chief development and marketing officer, said the park’s cameras were discussed Friday during a meeting with city officials. Police have not said if any of the cameras were malfunctioning the night Janness was killed.
“We discussed these questions today with the City of Atlanta and know they are looking at these public safety infrastructure issues,” Bugler said in response to an email about the park’s surveillance system.
The FBI is assisting the Atlanta Police Department in finding the person responsible for Janness’ death, and a reward of up to $10,000 has been offered in the case. But investigators offered no new details Friday, except to say it is a priority.
”Our homicide investigators are among the best in the business,” Chafee said in an emailed statement. “They take each of their cases very seriously, spending countless hours working to identify and apprehend those responsible. This case is extremely important to us all and our investigators continue working tirelessly to identify anyone involved.”
Despite there not being additional cameras in the area, the Clark family is hopeful other clues will help investigators find Janness’ killer.
“We are in the day and age where you have to be a complete idiot to commit a crime. Any crime,” Johnson said.
Police have asked anyone with information to come forward, and tipsters can remain anonymous by contacting Crime Stoppers Atlanta at 404-577-8477, texting information to 274637 or visiting the Crime Stoppers website.
Investigators are also asking those who live in this area to review footage from their security cameras and contact the police if they find anything that may be pertinent to this investigation. The timeframe for review should be between 10:30 p.m. on Tuesday to 1:30 a.m. on Wednesday.
Funeral arrangements were pending for Janness, who had planned to travel this week to visit her mother in Michigan. A GoFundMe page created to assist the family had raised nearly $49,000 by late Friday afternoon.