Cleveland public records issues slow 36-year-old murder investigation

Family investigator waiting 3 months for records
Posted at 10:23 PM, Jun 26, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-27 10:22:41-04

Andy Rokakis and his family have been waiting for closure in the brutal murder of his brother-in-law for more than 36 years.

The 1981 murder of 20-year-old Thomas Robert Foster remains unsolved. His body recovered in the east bank of Cleveland's Flats, Foster's killer was never found.

But family private investigator Rob Slattery believes he's found a break in the case, all he believes he needs is public records from the City of Cleveland to potentially lead to an arrest.

However, Slattery told News 5 trying to get the records from the city has been a frustrating experience that has left him waiting for three months and counting.

In fact, Slattery has now filed a lawsuit against the City of Cleveland through the Ohio Court of Claims, alleging the city has violated Ohio's Sunshine Laws, which state public records must be released in a timely manner.

"We're just asking for something we have a legal right to," said Slattery. "The Ohio Attorney General has documented that Cleveland is the worst offender for releasing records. The system is so bad with public records right now, that the Ohio Court of Claims has actuality taken over and they formed a mediation program."

News 5 contacted the Cleveland Mayor's office about its public records request performance and records concerning the Foster murder case. The city said it is now checking into the situation.

Meanwhile, the Rokakis and Foster families can only wait and wonder if they'll ever get the closure they've been waiting for since 1981.

"It's like an old wound that never heals," said Rokakis. "To know that you're that close to getting somewhere and resolving this after all these years, and you can't get there."