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Des Moines Cold Cases

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Des Moines, Iowa Cold Cases

For decades, police enforcement and the people of Des Moines, Iowa have struggled with the problem of missing and murdered people. The Des Moines Police Department has had a long-standing issue with "cold cases," or instances that have gone unsolved for an extended period of time (DMPD).

The DMPD has looked into hundreds of missing person cases and over two hundred unsolved homicides since 1980. However, many of these instances have not yet been solved, leaving the victims' loved ones with more questions than answers.

There are now over 200,000 unsolved homicides in the United States, as reported by the National Institute of Justice. The homicide rate in Des Moines, which has a population of about 216,000, is lower than in many other large American cities. But it doesn't mean people don't go missing or get murdered in Des Moines.

The 1981 murder of Kimberly Ratliff, whose body was recovered in a ditch on the outskirts of Des Moines, and the 1995 abduction of local TV news presenter Jodi Huisentruit are two of the city's most notorious unsolved cold cases.

The DMPD has created techniques to help solve cold cases despite the difficulty of doing so. The establishment of a Cold Case Unit, comprised of detectives trained to investigate cold cases, is one such tactic. These detectives have access to cutting-edge investigation tools and are educated in forensic methods like DNA and fingerprint analysis.

Together, the DMPD, the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) constitute a tight-knit network of law enforcement agencies. Several cold cases have been solved thanks to the efforts of these investigators working together, including the 1983 slaying of a local businessman.

The use of Genetic evidence is another crucial tactic for examining cold cases. DNA may now be extracted from almost any type of evidence thanks to technological advancements. DNA analysts at the DMPD's Crime Lab work to match DNA evidence with prospective suspects. Some cold cases in Des Moines have had suspects identified and eventually brought to justice thanks to Genetic evidence.

Famous cold cases in Des Moines

The DMPD also works with local groups and campaigners to get the word out about missing and murdered people and solicit tips from the general public. The DMPD collaborates with the Iowa Missing Person Information Clearinghouse, which is in charge of coordinating the search and rescue activities of various agencies throughout the state.

Advocates' efforts to bring attention to the problem of missing and murdered people have been crucial, complementing the efforts of law enforcement. The Iowa Cold Cases website was created to inform the public and help victims' families about cold cases in Iowa.

In sum, law enforcement and community members in Des Moines, Iowa still have a huge difficulty in addressing the problem of missing and murdered people. The DMPD and its allies are determined to bring closure to cold cases and vindication to victims' loved ones. Yet to solve this problem, authorities, advocates, and the public must work together to educate the public, offer aid, and apprehend the perpetrators.

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 Des Moines Police Department (DMPD)'s strategy for investigating unsolved cases?

Among the many possible approaches that DMPD may take while looking into cold cases are:

Using cutting-edge forensic tools like DNA analysis and fingerprint matching to the initial case investigation's evidence and forensic reports.

Looking back to the original investigation to see if there are any new leads or information that can be gleaned from the case files, evidence, and witness statements.

The process of re-interviewing suspects, victims, and witnesses to glean new information and spot discrepancies in their stories.

Making use of computers and forensics databases to track down leads and identify suspects.

Using incentives, collaborating with the media, and social media to solicit participation and collect data from the public.

Sharing knowledge and resources with other law enforcement organizations including the FBI and local prosecutors.

Having seasoned investigators look into cold cases on a regular basis in the hopes of finding fresh leads.

It's crucial to keep in mind that the specifics of each cold case may necessitate a different approach from law enforcement. Based on its past experience with cold cases, the Des Moines Police Department may have also created its own unique approach.

What resources are available to help solve cold cases?

Here are some potential sources that could lead to the resolution of cold cases in Des Moines, Iowa:

The Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) in Iowa is the primary law enforcement agency in the state and includes a special cold case team. Expert investigators are employed, and they collaborate with local authorities to solve cold cases.

The Des Moines Police Department has a cold case team that looks into cold crimes including murders that have never been solved or people who have gone missing. They have investigators on staff that focus on solving cold cases using cutting-edge methods and tools.

Iowa Cold Cases is a non-profit organization that promotes awareness of cold cases involving homicides in Iowa. The team collaborates with law enforcement and the victims' loved ones to investigate cold cases.

Central Iowa Crime Stoppers is a non-profit that operates a tip line for reporting criminal activity anonymously. They collaborate with local authorities to investigate and solve crimes, even cold ones.

Support and resources for instances involving missing and exploited children are provided through the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. When investigating these cases, they collaborate closely with law enforcement.

New DNA testing methods have allowed for the resolution of long-cold cases. DNA evidence can be analyzed in a state-of-the-art lab, such as the one maintained by the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation.

The media's coverage of cold cases can be a powerful tool in the fight to shed light on these crimes and spark new leads. Cold cases can be publicized in local media like as newspapers, radio, and television to raise awareness and elicit tips from the public.

Solving cold cases is a collective endeavor including law enforcement, victims' loved ones, and the general public.

Major cities surrounding Des Moines, Iowa

Omaha, Nebraska
Kansas City, Missouri
Minneapolis, Minnesota
St. Louis, Missouri
Chicago, Illinois

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