New group aims to streamline cold-case probes

Investigators in Maryland, nearby states to share information, strategies

August 14, 2005|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

Cold-case investigators in Maryland and nearby states are forming what they say is the first regional group for those whose work is the specialized investigation of criminal cases that can be decades old.

The Mid-Atlantic Cold Case Homicide Investigators Association is an outgrowth of last week's cold-case homicide conference held in Annapolis, where investigators said their increasing numbers and sophistication in their fields led them to conclude that they needed more than the piecemeal networking that goes on informally.

"This is so we can have a forum to discuss things, for networking, to share information," said David Cordle, chief investigator for the Anne Arundel County state's attorney's office and president of the new Annapolis-based group.

Advances in DNA matching, the growth of databanks of genetic material, new techniques for testing evidence and other developments have been an enormous boost in solving decades-old murder and rape cases.

In the past decade, an increasing number of police agencies have blown dust off yellowed folders, putting resources into old cases.

Last year, Anne Arundel police used DNA evidence to charge a convicted killer with three unsolved killings from more than a decade ago. He has not gone to trial.

Cordle said the group will focus on advances in forensics, training and case strategy along with specifics of cases, checking for similarities and offering each other fresh ideas for reopening stale investigations.

The fledgling organization will focus on New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina and the District of Columbia, Cordle said, but will accept members from anywhere in the country.

"We want to look at cases from a regional standpoint, from a time-period standpoint, and see if there is any pattern in any of the crimes," he said.

"People move around so much that sometimes you need contacts in others' jurisdictions, especially with cold cases specifically," said Detective Eduardo Voysest of the Washington Metropolitan Police Department's cold-case unit.

Tommy Ray, a special agent with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement in central Florida, said he expects to use the network because he thinks a possible suspect in one of his cases lives in Maryland.

"What better way to make contact, get information? We will know who to meet, who to talk to," Ray said.

Stacey L. Wilson, a forensic chemist with the Maryland State Police, said she hopes the network will foster tip-sharing about laboratory techniques and analyses that she can apply to cases.

"For me, it would help in discussing cases with investigators on what evidence should we look at next," she said.

The group, which is open to serologists, police officers and others who work in fields tied to cold cases, plans to publish a quarterly newsletter, start a Web site, charge $25 annual dues and meet a few times a year.

For information, write Cordle at MACCHIA, P.O. Box 611, Annapolis 21404.

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