COLD CASE FILES: New team to investigate old cases in St. Joseph County
St. Joseph County Metro Homicide Detectives want to solve more cold cases. It's why they are creating a new investigative team. The catch? The team will be made up of volunteers.
Inside their inconspicuous South Bend building, homicide investigators work some of the county's worst crimes. And in there, justice is written on the walls. Dozens of mug shots line the walls of the main conference room -- all suspects sent to prison for murder.
"You see these walls," says Homicide Commander, Tim Corbett, "they are not up there for having the highest SAT scores. These are all killers -- this is what we do."
Corbett and his team of investigators have a 89 percent solve rate. That means they solve roughly 9 out of every 10 homicides in the county. It also means there is one out of every ten that goes unsolved.
It's why there is a large shelved wall of binders inside the unit.
"These are the unsolved," says Corbett as he motions toward the dusty cases, "I don't know about you but that makes me want to puke because that means somebody killed somebody and they are out running around."
The cases date back to the 60s. There are dozens. Corbett knows something every single one.
"They all stick with me," he says.
Cases like Lawrance Martin, who was shot to death inside his home in 2009, or 89-year-old Julius Jones who was beaten to death in 1990 and 22 year old Sargent Micek who vanished in 1989.
Unfortunately, because of time and resources the old cases don't get the attention they need. That is about to change.
Corbett has been working with St. Joseph County Prosecutor Ken Cotter to create a new cold case team.
"A few years ago we actually had a paid cold case investigator. Because of budget constraints we had to discontinue paying that person. We used to get about 2 to 3 cold cases solved a year. Since we lost that cold case investigator it has dropped down to less than 1 year. I think this is a way to be able to bring that back up," says St. Joseph County Prosecutor Ken Cotter.
The Prosecutor's office oversees the homicide unit. This new team will be part of that. It will be comprised of experienced, retired detectives and they will be volunteers.
"There are officers out there that have retired and are a little bit bored with where they are at and what they are doing and they would like to volunteer their time to come in and look at cases," explains Corbett.
Cotter says this will cost taxpayers nothing. The investigators will be working on a strictly volunteer basis. The investigators will be sworn in on the days they are working, which means they will have police powers, but Corbett says they will not make arrests.
Corbett says the investigators must be experienced and they have to apply. But the team will be able to spend time on cases that could be one clue or one interview away from justice.
"There is a certain DNA gene when you do this job that you have," says Corbett.
Crimestoppers coordinator Cindy Kilgore has that gene. She retires in October and is considering joining the new cold case team.
"It would be very rewarding to have a chance to pull those old cases out," says Kilgore.
Because for people like Kilgore who have spent years working with the families of victims, the passion doesn't end at retirement.
"It is really both the need to find justice and to helping the victims family," says Kilgore.
That is what Corbett wants too, and ultimately to add more pictures to the walls at Metro Homicide.?