About Cold Cases

What is a “Cold Case” homicide?

A homicide case is considered “cold" when investigators determine that all potential leads have been exhausted. Detectives will re-examine a cold case homicide based on the following criteria:

  1. New evidence comes to light
  2. The victim’s physical remains were discovered
  3. A witness decided to come forward
  4. New technology allows old evidence to be re-examined and fruitful information obtained that can further the investigation

Four Levels of a Cold Case Homicide Investigation

Initial Review: The case is reviewed to determine if viable solvability* factors exist.

Full Review: A comprehensive review of all evidence, interviews, scientific reports, background information and all supporting documents. A strategy to further the investigation is established.

Full Investigation: Re-process evidence using modern forensic techniques, conduct interviews and re-interviews with witnesses, suspects, etc. Follow-up on all new leads and re-explore old leads. Assemble an updated case file with a focus towards prosecution.

Prosecution: Present the homicide cold case file to the District Attorney for filing. Arrest the suspect(s). Maintain an ongoing presence as the case progresses through the judicial process.

Case Assignments Follow a Cold Case Solvability Protocol*

The following areas are explored upon the initial review of a cold case homicide to see if it is viable for additional investigation.

Statutory and Constitutional Issues: Can the case be prosecuted due to statutory limitations, case law, or constitutional issues?

Evidence: Is there physical evidence available to be processed using new forensic technology? Is there original evidence that has not been previously processed by a laboratory? Have investigators obtained any new evidence?

Witnesses: Are there known or unknown witnesses that have come forward? Will this witness be willing to cooperate with the investigation? Will the witness's statement be admissible in court under hearsay rules?

Confessions: Has a known or unknown suspect confessed? Was the confession made to a cooperative witness? Was the confession made to law enforcement?

Inmate Information: Why is the inmate providing this information? Is the inmate willing to cooperate with the investigation? What does the inmate want in exchange for this cooperation? Is the inmate awaiting trial or under sentence? Is the District Attorney willing to cooperate with the inmate?

General Information: Was the general information obtained from an anonymous source, from a cooperative source, from an uncooperative source, or from the victim’s family?

*While the Cold Case investigator will respond to specific requests for a case review, these guidelines are utilized to justify reopening an unsolved homicide. Where none of these factors exist, a case review will be initiated to assess for solvability factors only.