Facebook Pixel

Pittsburgh Cold Cases

Stay on top of all things cold cases, advocacy, and true crime with our twice per week newsletter

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Cold Cases

Cold cases involving missing or murdered people are not uncommon in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, or any other city in the United States. Families who have been waiting for answers in these situations for years, maybe decades, often feel like they will never get them. While every case is different, the statistics surrounding these types of crimes can be rather disturbing and provide light on the difficulties law enforcement agencies have when attempting to solve them.

Almost a thousand cases of murder or disappearance in Pittsburgh since 1980 have not been resolved. Several of these cases have not been solved despite efforts by law enforcement and families to find answers despite technological and other breakthroughs.

Since 1980, there have been over 800 reported occurrences where someone went missing. About 70% of these cases have been closed, leaving 30% unresolved. Lack of evidence, missing people who vanished on their own own, and incidents in which the victim is presumed to have been taken out of state or country are just a few of the many possible explanations for why these crimes remain unsolved.

Pittsburgh has had over 200 unsolved homicides and hundreds more missing person investigations since 1980. Many suspects and a lack of evidence or eyewitnesses can make these situations exceptionally challenging for law enforcement. When compared to the clearance rate for missing person cases, the clearance rate for killings is lower, hovering around 60%.

Despite the numbers, police in Pittsburgh have not let up in their efforts to solve these heinous crimes. DNA evidence has played a major part in several recent cold case arrests thanks to developments in technology and forensic science. Social media and other online tools have also facilitated the widespread distribution of news and calls for assistance that were before impossible.

The lack of resources is a problem for law enforcement when looking into cold cases. Due to resource constraints, it may be impossible to conduct in-depth inquiries into each situation. When new information becomes available years after a case has been closed for lack of leads or evidence, it is often decided to reopen the investigation.

Famous cold cases in Pittsburgh

The emotional toll these cases may take on loved ones and law enforcement is another obstacle. Many relatives of victims of disappearance or murder have waited for years for answers, and each day that passes just deepens their anguish. Each unsolved case represents a failure to provide justice to victims and their families, creating enormous pressure for law enforcement to find answers.

In spite of these obstacles, several cold cases in Pittsburgh have been solved. Rachael DelTondo, a teacher in her thirties, was gunned down in front of her house in 2018. By 2021, a suspect had been identified and charged with her murder after years of inquiry and DNA analysis.

Cases like Rachael's bring to light the need of reopening cold cases and the necessity of providing law enforcement with consistent funding and resources. If law enforcement is given greater resources and time, they will be more likely to solve these crimes and bring closure to the affected families.

There have been over a thousand unsolved cases of homicide or disappearance in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania since 1980, which is deeply disturbing. Law enforcement has numerous obstacles while attempting to solve these cases, but recent developments in technology and forensic science, as well as the increased availability of information thanks to the Internet, have opened up new avenues of inquiry. The pursuit of justice for victims and their families can continue if law enforcement is given the means to do it.

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 Pittsburgh Police Department (PPD)'s strategy for investigating unsolved cases?

The Pittsburgh Police Department employs a number of methods for reviving cold cases, such as:

Many cold cases haven't been solved because crucial pieces of evidence or witness testimony weren't collected or recorded at the time of the crime. The Pittsburgh Police Department looks over all of the material and comments from witnesses to find any missed opportunities.

With modern technology: DNA and ballistics testing are just two examples of the new types of testing and analysis made possible by technological advancements. Forensic experts assist the Pittsburgh Police Department in investigating crimes and making arrests.

The Pittsburgh Police Department shares information and resources with other law enforcement agencies, such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Pennsylvania State Police. By working together, we can expand our reach and gain access to more specialized tools.

The Pittsburgh Police Department reaches out to the public through many channels in order to receive tips and information. The department's goal in disclosing information regarding old cases is to find new leads and uncover previously unknown details.

Detectives with the Pittsburgh Police Department's Cold Case Team have received extensive training and expertise in the investigation of cold cases. These cops are in charge of revisiting and reexamining cold cases.

The Pittsburgh Police Department frequently releases press releases and social media posts about cold cases. The department hopes that by maintaining public awareness of the cases, they will be able to attract new leads and information that would help bring closure to the investigations.

The Pittsburgh Police Department's approach to solving cold cases is multifaceted, involving not only the use of tried-and-true methods but also cutting-edge tools, interagency cooperation, and citizen involvement. The agency is investing time and energy into these cases in the name of fairness for the victims and their loved ones.

What resources are available to help solve cold cases?

In Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, there are a number of resources available to help solve cold cases:

The Pittsburgh Bureau of Police has a special squad called the Cold Case Squad that looks into cold cases, or murders and disappearances that have never been solved. In order to solve cold cases, they collaborate closely with local law police and other organizations.

The Pennsylvania State Police are happy to lend a hand to local authorities in their investigations, especially those involving cold cases. Moreover, they have a Criminal Investigation Assessment Section that can assist with criminal investigations, even cold cases.

The NCMEC is an organization that collaborates with local authorities, families, and other professionals to aid in the search for missing children and provide information and resources to those conducting investigations. They have a forensics squad that is trained to investigate cold cases.

Experts in law enforcement, forensics, and victim advocacy make up the Pennsylvania Cold Case Advisory Committee, which provides advice and assistance to law enforcement throughout cold case investigations. They are also engaged in locating financing and other resources for cold case investigations.

Pittsburgh Crime Stoppers is a nonprofit organization that pays monetary prizes for information that leads to an arrest and conviction in a previously unsolved crime. As part of their partnership with law enforcement, they collect data that can be used to make arrests and solve cases.

Major cities surrounding Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Cleveland, Ohio
Columbus, Ohio
Erie, Pennsylvania
Morgantown, West Virginia
Wheeling, West Virginia

Get Your Free Step-By-Step Citizen Detective Guide

Get Your Free Step-By-Step Citizen Detective Guide