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Denver Cold Cases

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Denver, Colorado Cold Cases

Denver has had its share of unsolved murder and disappearance cases over the previous few decades. Despite the greatest efforts of law enforcement officials, many of these crimes have remained unsolved for years, leaving families and loved ones in despair.

The Denver Police Department has looked into over 1,400 homicides and over 1,000 cases of missing people since 1980. Clearance rates for homicides in Denver in 2019 were 62.5%, according to the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting Program, which is slightly higher than the national average of 61.4%. However, the clearance rate for missing person cases was substantially lower, at just 36.4%.

One of the most high-profile cold cases in Denver is the murder of Tim Masters. Masters was only 15 years old in 1987 when the body of Peggy Hettrick, a 37-year-old woman, was discovered in a field close to his house. Masters was wrongfully convicted of murder in 1999 and served nearly a decade in jail before being exonerated by Genetic evidence. This mystery has yet to be resolved.

The disappearance of 21-year-old Kelsie Schelling in February 2013 is another high-profile unsolved case. Schelling was meeting her boyfriend in Pueblo, Colorado, and she was last seen at a Walmart there. She left behind an abandoned automobile in the lot, and nobody has seen or heard from her since. Despite numerous searches and investigations, no arrests have been made in connection with Schelling's disappearance.

The killings of Jennifer Watkins and Jacob Millison, among others, have not been solved. Mother-of-two Watkins, age 23, was discovered dead in her residence in 2004, and college student Millison, age 19, was gunned down outside a nightclub in 2015.

Famous cold cases in Denver

The Denver Police Department has used a number of tactics over the years to increase the rate at which these cases are solved. A Cold Case Unit, formed for the express purpose of examining and re-investigating cold cases, is one such tactic. Detectives having a lot of background in homicide cases work in this section.

The department also uses technology breakthroughs to aid solve cases, such as DNA analysis and forensic testing. Rather than searching for the suspect themselves in a DNA database, the department has recently turned to familial DNA testing to assist solve cold cases.

The department also maintains close ties to the neighborhood and actively seeks out tips from the public. Rewards have been provided in some instances in exchange for information leading to an arrest and subsequent conviction.

Even with all of this work, many of these cases still haven't been solved. Law enforcement agencies are dedicated to bringing justice to the victims and their families, while loved ones wait for answers and closure.

Joseph Smedley
Joseph SmedleySuspicious Death, 2015
Asha Degree
Asha DegreeMissing, 2000

Consider this

More than 200,000 unsolved cases have gone cold since 1980, and murder clearance rates continue to drop. With equity for BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and other underserved victims not prioritized in the true crime community—together we can do better.

What is Denver Police Department (DPD)'s strategy for investigating unsolved cases?

Unsolved or "cold" cases are investigated in a variety of ways by the Denver Police Department (DPD). Use of cutting-edge tech, community involvement, and collaboration with other organizations are all examples of these methods.

DPD relies heavily on the combined DNA index system as one of its primary technological resources (CODIS). DNA profiles from criminals, crime scenes, and missing people are all stored in the Central Ohio Data Information System (CODIS). Investigators may be able to link a previously unidentified DNA profile to a suspect or victim by searching CODIS. Darlene Krashoc was murdered in 1981, and the Denver Police Department has using genealogy websites to help find those responsible for the crime.

The Department of Public Safety and Development (DPS) also uses community participation as a tactic. By connecting with the community, detectives can obtain information and prospective leads from people who may have knowledge on unsolved cases. Participation can take many forms, including community meetings and collaboration with local groups to spread the word about cold cases.

To further its mission, DPD collaborates with other organizations including the Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI). For instance, the murder of a young woman named Helene Pruszynski in 1981 was solved in 2018 thanks to a joint effort between the DPD and the CBI. DPD and CBI worked together to collect further DNA evidence at the crime scene and ultimately identify a suspect.

In addition to these techniques, the DPD also maintains a Cold Case Murder Unit, comprised of detectives with years of experience in solving cold cases. All unsolved homicide cases in Denver are investigated by the team, with special attention paid to those where fresh information or evidence has surfaced.

DPD uses a wide variety of methods, including cutting-edge technology, extensive community involvement, and cooperative efforts with other organizations, to solve cold cases and provide justice for victims' loved ones.

What resources are available to help solve cold cases?

In Denver, Colorado, there are a number of resources available to investigate and potentially solve cold cases.

Unsolved homicides are the focus of the Denver Police Department's Cold Case Unit. To solve cold cases, they use forensic evidence, cutting-edge technology, and collaboration with local, state, and federal law enforcement.

Forensic laboratory facilities, criminal investigative support, and access to a DNA database are all available through the Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which also handles cold case inquiries.

The Colorado Cold Case Network and Colorado Crime Stoppers are two examples of non-profits in the state that aim to raise awareness of cold cases and solicit information from the public.

Families of cold case victims may find comfort and services from victim advocacy groups like the Colorado Association for Victim Assistance.

Law enforcement agencies, nonprofits, and victim advocacy groups are just some of the many Denver- and Colorado-based options for investigating cold cases.

Major cities surrounding Denver, Colorado

Colorado Springs, Colorado
Aurora, Colorado
Boulder, Colorado
Fort Collins, Colorado
Lakewood, Colorado

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