The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Local News

January 30, 2011

West Virginia State Police to revisit unsolved cold cases

Captain says 30 files in area have the most potential to be solved

BECKLEY — In television shows, cold cases are almost always resolved and, most of the time, rather quickly. Realistically, police say they are quite challenging, considering that very few clues are left to scavenge.

Yet, West Virginia State Police have decided to undertake the effort, even with the challenges it presents.

Even though cold cases have not been picked up “efficiently,” the West Virginia State Police has said it has decided to revisit them with renewed dedication and a new process to help resolve them.

To get a better understanding of what police are doing, it’s important to understand how they define “cold case.” Capt. J.L. Cahill defines it as unsolved homicides, unidentified remains or missing people.

“These cases are the most challenging because it’s not like a smoking gun case,” he said. “Another reason these cases are challenging is not only because they can span over a bunch of counties, but because they can span over different agencies. We want to negotiate through that and work with them to get them solved.”

Back in 2000, officers who were assigned to cold cases had compiled a list that identified 70 cold cases in a nine county area over the past 30 years. Cahill said they have since identified 30 cases that have the most potential to be solved.

In the past, cold cases have suffered because the people in charge have either retired, been promoted or left the area, Cahill said. Cases weren’t picked up efficiently, but there are plans to change that.

“We thought it was important to tackle,” he said. “Drugs are always a focus, and those cases are important, but these cases deal with a loss of life. And that’s pretty important too.”

The first thing Cahill plans to do is assign each trooper with one of the 33 cases. Think tank sessions Monday and Thursday will provide opportunity to discuss what new avenues to pursue in the cases.

“We want it to be where one person has ownership of a case, and they will revisit everything in that case,” he said. “They will talk to witnesses and make sure evidence was submitted correctly. They will then turn in an update every so often.”

The goal is to resolve all 33 cases, but with the nature of these cases, Cahill said he would be happy if even one of them is resolved.

“What we need to do that is aggressive officers and aggressive prosecution,” he said. “We want more self-driven people on these cases, and I believe that, even if we solve one or two, that will be a major accomplishment.”

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