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Reno Cold Cases

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Reno, Nevada Cold Cases

Like many other U.S. communities, Reno, Nevada, has a serious problem with unsolved cold cases. These are cases of crimes that have not been resolved, leaving families and communities in limbo for years, if not decades.

Several cases of people going missing or being murdered have gone unsolved in Reno since 1980. There are 60 cold cases in Reno that date back to 1980, according to data from the National Missing and Unidentified People System (NamUs). There are 28 cases involving missing people and 32 involving homicides.

There has been a noticeable uptick in the number of unsolved crimes in Reno during the 2000s after years of steady growth. The Reno Gazette-Journal reported that between 2001 and 2005, the number of unsolved homicides in Washoe County, of which Reno is a part, increased from 20 to 40. A increasing population, an uptick in gang violence, and adjustments in police tactics were all blamed for this escalation.

Reno's homicide clearance rate is persistently lower than the national average, despite the city's best efforts to solve these cases. FBI statistics show that in 2020, Reno had a lower homicide clearance rate than the national average of 61.6%. More than half of the murders in Reno have not been solved, which is a problem for authorities and the city's residents alike.

It's possible that the absence of witnesses or physical evidence is making it so difficult to clear cases. Investigators often have few clues to follow, and if no new information or tools become available, a case can fall cold.

The transient population of Reno could also be a contributing factor to the city's high rate of cold illnesses. Many people visit and leave Reno each year since it is a well-liked tourism hotspot. This can make it more challenging to locate potential witnesses and reconstruct what transpired.

Famous cold cases in Reno

Victims' loved ones in Reno's unsolved cold cases frequently report feeling helpless and frustrated. Several people have taken to social media and other online forums in an effort to get the word out about their loved ones' disappearances and hopefully find some answers. The Nevada Child Seekers and the Missing People Advocacy Network are just two of the many groups based in Reno that try to aid the families of missing people.

Reno police have taken action to investigate and close cold cases. The Reno Police Department conducts investigations into cold cases specifically. In order to evaluate old evidence and find fresh leads, the unit collaborates closely with other law enforcement organizations and makes use of cutting-edge forensic technology.

Reno has seen some significant breakthroughs in solving cold cases in recent years. A man was arrested and charged with the murder of a woman whose body was discovered in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in 1982. This occurred in the year 2020. The breakthrough occurred when the suspect's DNA was linked to that of a family member in a national DNA database. DNA technology's capacity to shed light on crimes decades after they were committed was on full display in this case.

Law enforcement agencies in Reno, and across the country, continue to struggle with cold cases. There is, however, reason to believe that more crimes can and will be solved with the help of the community, the application of cutting-edge technology, and the commitment of law enforcement officials.

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 Reno Police Department (RPD)'s strategy for investigating unsolved cases?

Unsolved cases, even those that have been "cold," are investigated by the Reno Police Department's Cold Case Unit. The department has a multi-pronged approach to solving cold cases:

In order to determine whether any fresh leads or evidence were missed during the initial investigation, the Cold Case Unit goes through all of the case files, evidence, and witness statements.

The team reinterviews potential witnesses, relatives, and others with knowledge of the case to discover whether their memories have altered or if they have any new information.

In order to reexamine evidence and find fresh leads, the team employs cutting-edge forensic technology and DNA analysis.

The Cold Case Unit collaborates with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other law enforcement agencies to share information and resources.

The unit uses several platforms to reach out to the public in the hopes that someone may recognize the case and come forward with information.

The Reno Police Department maintains both a Cold Case Section and a Missing People Detail to look into such situations. The Missing People Detail performs comparable tasks to those of the Cold Case Unit, including the examination of old case files, the reinterview of key witnesses, and the application of forensic technology to the discovery of fresh clues.

The Reno Police Department's approach to investigating cold cases includes reviewing all available evidence and information, using cutting-edge forensic technology, partnering with other organizations and the public, and reaching out to the public to develop fresh leads. To guarantee that its personnel are equipped to conduct cold case investigations, the agency also provides training in this area. The Reno Police Department, as a whole, is dedicated to solving cold cases and delivering justice and peace of mind to victims' loved ones.

What resources are available to help solve cold cases?

In Reno, Nevada, you can use a number of tools to investigate and potentially solve cold cases:

The Reno Police Department maintains a special squad devoted to looking into cold cases, such as murders that have never been solved or people who have gone missing. Cold case investigators attempt to find those responsible and provide closure to victims' loved ones.

Unsolved homicide and missing person cases are investigated by the Nevada Division of Investigations' cold case team in conjunction with local law enforcement agencies like the Reno Police Department. Skilled detectives and forensic analysts work in the unit, using cutting-edge DNA analysis tools to crack cases.

The FBI has a digital forensics lab in Reno that it uses to serve law enforcement agencies across the country. Cell phone records and computer files are only two examples of digital evidence that can be analyzed in the lab.

Crime Stoppers is a nationwide program that encourages and facilitates anonymous reporting of criminal activity to authorities. Along with Crime Stoppers, the Reno Police Department asks the public for help solving unsolved crimes.

Private investigators can also be hired by families or individuals to look into cold cases. Expertise in areas like surveillance or digital forensics is one area where private investigators may be of assistance in solving cold cases. Yet, hiring a private investigator may get pricey, and there's no promise they'll be successful.

Major cities surrounding Reno, Nevada

Sparks, Nevada
Carson City, Nevada
Truckee, California
Fernley, Nevada
Incline Village, Nevada

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