Cold Case Investigations and Their Success

A cold case can be defined as an accident or a crime, which has not been solved completely, and is not the focus of any recent investigation. Even though it is expected that information can come from the testimony of new witnesses, during the re-examination of the archives, from the material evidence held by the investigating team and, in some cases, from fresh criminal acts of the suspect (John and Linda).

The development of the new methods of investigation after the case has been launched can use the initial evidence in order to do the fresh analysis of the causes of the crime, which in most instances, help in conclusions being drawn on the cases involved (John and Linda 34).

There are many things involved in cold cases, and there are many possibilities as well. In most cases, the investigative supervisors close the case. Other people, who are allowed to close the cold cases, include case investigators, as well as committee investigators. At times, the agencies, investigating the cases, do not close the cases; these cases are instead left open, but no active pursuit is involved (Ronald 76).

Most of the agencies involved in investigating cold cases have well-articulated policies on how to reactivate them. There is also a protocol, used by these investigating agencies, on how to determine the cold cases to work (Silvia 13). The components of the protocols used include new witnesses being allowed to come forward, the availability of DNA testing to test old evidence, availability of the new materials, which can be  tested; there is also an availability of some other  physical evidence (Silvia 18).  

There are other protocols, which include the overturning of a conviction earlier confirmed, the availability of new information witnesses previously known, as well as recovered memory. There is a strong indication, however, that physical evidence is the biggest factor considered, when reopening a case (Ronald 67).

Most of the cold cases involve homicide; this is followed by cases involving missing individuals. It has also been established that burglaries, sexual offences and robberies are also very rampant. The cold cases, which are least investigated, include embezzlement, arson and kidnappings (John and Linda 32).

The cold casework is very involving, and the financial implication is equally big. The investigative agencies have established funds for executing such works. The majority of the cases, however, are funded by the supplementary funds or grants. Few agencies commit to continued funding. This shows that cold cases are rather cumbersome and financially intensive ventures. It remains uncertain, whether the agencies will continue to fund the investigations (Ronald 47).


Many agencies have specific policies, which govern the type of cold cases, in which DNA samples are submitted for matching. Some policies direct that DNA should be surrendered in certain kinds of cases, most notably in crimes, which includes violent scenes, homicides, as well as sexual assaults (Silvia).

It is very unlikely that a submission will be made for all types of cases. Some agencies, on the other hand, surrender their DNA based on the circumstances. This is done especially when the agencies have a strong feeling that the DNA would be more probative or when a suspect has been clearly identified and some proof is needed (John and Linda 26). Some agencies, however, claim that the decision to give DNA evidence is a decision made by the prosecutor involved in the case (Silvia 50).

Cold cases majorly involve violence, like robbery with violence, felony that includes rape and murder, which are not subjected to a statute of limitations. At times, if a victim disappears and fails to be seen or heard from for a long time, this too can be considered being a cold case.

Examples involving cold case investigations

An example of such a disappearance is the case of Natalee Holloway, an American student, who disappeared on her trip to attend high school graduation in Aruba in the Netherlands. At the time of her vanishing, she lived in Mountain Brook, Alabama (Richard 32). She was scheduled to take a flight home on May 30, 2005 after the graduation on May 24, 2005, but was not able to appear for her flight. She was last seen in the company of three men Satish Kaploe and Deepak Kaploe, who were brothers, together with Joran van der Sloot. On questioning them, they said that they had dropped her at her hotel and said that they were not privy to what had befallen her (Richard 33).

On further investigations, the authorities arrested Van der Sloot twice, while the brothers, Deepak and Satish, were each arrested three times on being suspected of having been involved in her vanishing. However, each time these three men were arrested, they were released without charge due to the lack of evidence. The early investigation that involved the Aruban police, after Beth Twitty, Holloway’s mother, had furnished the police with crucial leads, which indicated Van der Sloot’s involvement, established, that Holloway was with Van der Slot and the Kaploe brothers on her fateful night (Richard 20).

Volunteers were involved in the search of Holloway, but even with the additional help of the Aruban marines, nothing concrete was able to be put in place. The search was continued with many suspects being arrested, released and rearrested.

Moreover, the secret cameras were investigated, statements by suspects and witnesses reviewed and stories compared and compiled together. Van der Sloot was later convicted of first-degree murder of Stephany Tatiana Flores Ramirez, on May 30, 2010. To this, he pleaded guilty. After many years of investigation and much publicized media attention of this case, Holloway was later declared dead in January 12, 2012 following the signing of an order by Judge King declaring Natalee Holloway dead. This was after, Natalee’s father, Dave Holloway, filed a petition in Alabama court, with which he sought to have his daughter declared legally dead. No one has been charged for this disappearance. Holloway too has not been found to date. It remains largely unresolved (Richard).

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It is a judicial procedure to consider a case unsolved until such a time, when a suspect is successfully identified, arrested, arraigned in court charged and tried for the criminal activity. If a case goes to trial but it does not yield any conviction on the part of the suspect, it has to be kept in the books awaiting any new evidence. Many times, a case may not be solved, but the forensic evidence, thus obtained, can be used later on to know if the crimes are serial (John and Linda).

Some of the best examples involving cold case investigations include the conviction of Edmond Jay Marr in 2005, of kidnap in March 1983 and murder of Elaine Graham, a nursing student at California State University, Northridge. Some of the things that lead to him being suspected of the murder are that he was at the place of her disappearance and was also seen at a sister’s residence, a short distance from where the victim’s car was found six months later. The knife, which the suspect had in possession, when apprehended for armed robbery a month after Elaine’s murder, was found to be the weapon used to kill her, when the DNA evidence, which was unavailable in 1983, but was provided by the daughter of Elaine, matched the blood found in the crevices of the knife.

Another case, which was successful, involved John Henry Horton, when he was arrested in 2003 for the murder of 13-years-old Lizbath Wilson in July, 1974 in Prairie Village, Kansas. Lizbath had been seen last by her brother John, running across the Shawnee Mission East High School’s field. John was also running but was ahead of her. Six months later, her remains were discovered in an open field. The reason, why Horton became a prime suspect, is that Lizbeth was known to be alive for the last time at the school, Horton being the only adult in the school that night. This was furthered by the report given by other girls, who said that he had attempted to lure them into the school grounds. It was also found by police that he had an abnormally long break, from about 8.30 p.m. until almost midnight (Ronald 77).

When the police carried out a search in his car, they found chloroform, which he admitted to have been using in order to get excited. The evidence found was, however, deemed circumstantial, and he was freed until 2002, when a witness, who was overlooked back in 1974, was interviewed by investigators. At 15, she had been a victim of chloroform intoxication by Horton, and when she passed out, was sexually molested by him. He was arrested and convicted following these new revelations.

In 2005, there was another twist to this story, when The Kansas State Supreme Court overturned the conviction, citing that the testimony of the girl could not be allowed, since the act of sexual harassment alleged had not been placed on public record. They, however, granted leave for retrial and refilling of the case. This round, the purely circumstantial evidence, together with the testimony of Horton’s two fellow inmates, was good enough for the second jury to declare him guilty.

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