With nearly a quarter of a million cold cases still unresolved in the U.S., there are a number of reasons cold cases are reopened by law enforcement. In a study released by the National Institute of Justice, the following reasons are identified as the primary rationales to reopen a cold case.
Advancements in forensic technology
While Citizen Detectives won’t be testing forensic samples directly, creating a digital database of like cases with similar details or examining genealogy connections can have tangible impacts.
EXAMPLE: Bear Brook
A professional researcher named Rebecca Heath, a librarian from Connecticut, followed up on a tip she’d uncovered after listening to the Bear Brook podcast. This tip led to the IDs of the victims.
Changes in relationships over time
Time will impact leads, particularly as relationships among key persons evolve. Perhaps a divorce creates an opportunity to corroborate an alibi or a secret among friends that is brought to light over time.
New leads through fresh case and evidence review
A different perspective can open many doors when examining data and case information collected in previous years. Not only a unique way of connecting dots but reexamining evidence with updated technology can also lead to new avenues.
Increased public support and interest in cold case investigations
Media attention, anniversaries, or collective curiosity can rouse public interest and connect others searching for answers.
EXAMPLE: Golden State Killer
Michelle McNamara’s book I’ll Be Gone in the Dark was the impetus for unique data collection and the subsequent capture of GSK. Increased media attention helped to connect the dots. HBO recently documented McNamara’s book and her journey to find the killer.
Improvements in information management
Simply digitizing evidence usually collected in boxes or mapping data once reserved for pen and paper can provide new leads.
Be sure to check out the Uncovered Citizen Detective guide to learn more about how to uncover clues on cold cases. We’re also visualizing cases daily and we need your input, insights, and interests. Let us know what cases are you are following, and what you’d like to see visualized.