kicking around the cold case files

It’s time to start kicking around the cold case files. Every detective has that one case that was never solved and to this day still “haunts” them. There are many such cases in my career that I wish we could have found the evidence that linked the person of interest to the crime. Often, we knew who the killer was, but speculation and conjecture never solved anything, only cold hard facts, confessions, eyewitnesses and other forms of physical evidence.

Detectives often look to dabble in cold cases when no cold case squad exists – it’s the right thing to do. The cold case detective is the last liaison between the police and the public. It is an open line of communication that tells the victim’s family that we still care. It is an important aspect of the police / community relationship that is often severed after years have gone by. New detectives looking into cold cases also soothes the conscience of prior investigators who retired, were promoted or were moved unto other jobs.

I encourage you to do it. Examine the contents of the case closely, sometimes a fresh set of eyes is all that is needed, devoid of investigation bias and speculation. However, my only advice is to not contact the family until you have something that you can sink your teeth into. No one wants to be let down again.

Some points to consider:

  • Was DNA resubmitted? The technology has changed so much, give it another go
  • Were swabs, fingernails, hair exemplars taken at autopsy? resubmit
  • Is there evidence that was never tested?
  • Was everything documented on reports? Many times the best information is on detective pocket litter

So you found something, what other help do you need? The detective is only limited by his / her imagination. It is not hard to “sell” the story for media coverage, especially around holidays – a few big ones coming up – and on the incident(s) anniversary dates. Also, there are many unused billboards along highways and byways that can be used. The owner likes to have something up there to show they are still in business and the police need the exposure for no cost. Billboard owners often help out by providing this civic duty and probably the tax right off.

The course of action that may produce the most leads, is money. “Putting money out on the street” often gets results. Remember, the holidays are around the corner and people need cash. If you haven’t contacted a local or the national Crime Stoppers Program, start calling. They will provide enough reward money to get you started and may ultimately solve the case.

The detective however, has to take the first step by opening that cold case file door and diving in. It is a long and arduous process with many obstacles, but it is all worth it in the end. You will be glad you did and so will the family.