Unsolved but not forgotten, the Post Crescent shows us what can still be done to make sure that unsolved homicides are not forgotten. I came by this article through the Twitter account of John Ferak. John has a long history in researching criminal cases. Just check his blog on the Murdock Murders.
Gannett Wisconsin Media is publishing an exclusive four-week series called Cold Cases: Tracking Wisconsin’s unsolved murders. The database can be found here. If you scroll down you can see how much work was involved: “Gannett Wisconsin Media reporters spent months gathering notable cases from 1926-2012 from media, court and police reports. A more recent directory of unsolved homicides is available partially from the state’s Office of Justice Assistance. Those listings were then verified with each individual department to cull out solved cases. Photo credits: Beloit Daily News, Milwaukee Police Department, Officer Down Memorial Page, Racine Police Department, Wisconsin State Journal, WTMJ-TV.”
Some points of interest:
Despite hundreds of unsolved cases, Wisconsin’s clearance rates are better than the national rates.
Near page four, Prof Jack Levin is quoted saying that “the nature of murder has changed considerably over the years — and it’s had an impact on solving cases. “If you look at the general picture, you will see that the cases that go unsolved tend to be murders committed by total strangers,” Levin said. “In the typical murder case, the killer is a friend, neighbor, family member, co-worker or acquaintance. “Nowadays, there are too many murders where police are left with a dump site and skeletal remains,” he said. “It makes the cases very difficult to solve.” Modern technology such as DNA helps but funding the required testing remains an obstacle.
States have printed cold case card decks. How many crimes were actually solved by these card decks? Did police really receive enormous amounts of tips? And, should these cards only be distributed in prisons? One murder victim family member said that the cards should also be distributed in high-crime areas. But why stop there? Why not place a deck in each community center or public library? The article shows you information about a few states where the card decks came out and how many cases were solved. The key issue again is funding.
There is also a piece about the empty space that is left behind in people’s lives when a loved one disappears. Jane Wilde talks about her missing granddaughter Amber(19). Amber disappeared in September 1998. She was a student at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. “Each night before I go to bed, I look at her picture on my nightstand and tell her what’s been happening in our lives, and that I love her and miss her,” Jane Wilde said. “You have to find some way to go on because life doesn’t end right there.”
That pain is also felt by family members whose loved one’s murder case was never solved. Stephanie has been blogging about the pain of losing her mother at the tender age of six. Her mom, Brenda Martinez, left the house to use a pay phone at Fenton and West Atherton roads (Richfield Township, Michigan) and did not return. Her snow-covered, frozen body was found near Tobaggan Hill in Holloway Reservoir Regional Park on Jan. 5, 1989. Police did not disclose a cause of death but said it was a homicide.
Stephanie wrote a very moving letter to her son telling him what to do in case she should ever meet Brenda’s fate:
“If something should happen to me like it did to your grandma, do not spend your time worrying over me. Vengeance and anger are not worth the harm it brings to you and those you hold dear that are still alive and needing you.
Do not feel you have to fight for my honor or ability to rest because no matter what I am with our maker, and doing fantastically. Let it go as soon as you can and keep those in your charge safe. I do not need you to provide me justice, or anything other than your love.
If you love me let that sadness go and honor those things that made our times so very special, no matter how mundane the might seem.”
If you see cold cases being highlighted by your local newspapers or police department, please take a look. Read, link to them on your blog, or alert other bloggers to those cases. If appropriate, try to use the cases in talks, presentations or lectures. You may not be able to solve the case. However, by helping to spread the word you make it possible that one day we will solve them.