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By Amanda Phillips                                                                  I    n a murder investigation, time   ...
OSSI:The Right Connectionsfor Excellent Supportand Implementation“SunGard’s OSSI Professional Services Group alongwith our...
or evidence that’s been there all           murder cases in Toledo history            was recognizable from the 1980along,...
for proper re-examination.              lected at that time, is likely that the     ferent shapes of the stains and size  ...
as DNA evidence. Ironically, the         gations in the past 40 years.            much harder,” she says, “becauseremoved ...
cases that go unsolved every year.      then you have a major, major                “one little thing” was advanced   “The...
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Cold Case


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From \'Law Enforcement Technology\' magazine about cold case investigations.

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Cold Case

  1. 1. By Amanda Phillips I n a murder investigation, time is of the essence. As the days, weeks and months pass cases lose their momentum — especially when witnesses disappear, move or die and detectives are assigned to new cases. Although murder is a tragic act by itself, yet another tragedy lies within: guilty criminals roam free, unsolved cases and evidence pile up and victim’s families are denied closure to mourn the death of their loved ones. As detectives reach an impasse between the col- lected evidence and a solution, it is deemed a cold case. Just because a case is considered “cold” doesn’t mean that all hope is lost. In fact, more and more cases are being re-opened and re-exam- ined every day, bringing criminals closer to a conviction — and justice. Solving cold cases puts law enforcement, and the general public, at ease. But in the real world of investigation, evidence is not always readily available and cases are not easily solved quickly. With the advent of emerging tech- nology, most people assume guilty suspects are brought to justice with the push of a few buttons on a computer or with the wave of a high-tech device over a piece of evidence. It is true that many investiga- tors solve cases with the help of advanced technology, such as DNA evidence, but the possibility still exists for cold cases to be solved without using this scientific method. Perhaps something as simple as assigning a new inves- tigator to the case could offer a Solving cold case investigations without new perspective about the details of the case. If an investigator with DNA evidence is not impossible a fresh perspective could see clues20 Law Enforcement Technology ■ August 2007 ■
  2. 2. OSSI:The Right Connectionsfor Excellent Supportand Implementation“SunGard’s OSSI Professional Services Group alongwith our CAD team threw the switch at 5 a.m. tomake a completely seamless CAD transition.”Chief Robert PetrovichCape Coral Police Department PUBLIC SECTOR Connect the Community OSSI PUBLIC SAFETY SOLUTIONSWhen the Cape Coral Police Department in Florida needed to go-live with their new OSSIComputer-Aided Dispatch system, SunGard’s OSSI Professional Services Group was there fromstart-to-finish ensuring another successful implementation.After backing each Cape Coral telecommunicator with a SunGard OSSI trainer, the team threw theswitch at 5 a.m. and made a completely seamless CAD transition. The result: one of more than 340customers over the past 12 years that have experienced an on-time, go-live implementation.Learn more about this success story at and find out how SunGard OSSI canbe your partner in protection. As a leading provider of public safety solutions, SunGard delivers theright connections, service, and support you need to achieve your goals. We deliverinteroperability. Our OSSI Windows ® -based platform provides highly integratedfunctionality and rapid access to information for multiple users. And, we’re committed tosmooth, on-time implementation and 24x7 service and support. Together, we can make yourcommunity a safer place to live and work.Computer-Aided Dispatch · Records Management System · Mobile Computing Technology · Jail Management System · Internet TechnologyConnect the Community Circle 209 on Reader Service Card 888-483-4620Trademark Information: SunGard and the SunGard logo are trademarks or registered trademarks of SunGard Data Systems Inc. or itssubsidiaries in the U.S. and other countries. All other trade names are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective holders. © 2007 SunGard
  3. 3. or evidence that’s been there all murder cases in Toledo history was recognizable from the 1980along, it could be exactly what is and perhaps one of the longest Sister Pahl murder case, thisneeded for solving a cold case. unsolved cases: 26 years passed piece of information prompted between the day the 71-year-old Det. Sgt. Steven Forrester toAn unthinkable crime Sister was murdered and when the reopen the case. Just as they had When Sister Margaret Ann Pahl most unlikely suspect was finally in 1980, detectives from the 2003prepared for Holy Saturday Mass found guilty and convicted. Toledo Police Department Coldat the now-closed Mercy Hospital Father Gerald Robinson was a Case Investigation Unit workedin Toledo, Ohio, on April 5, 1980, prime suspect from the beginning, diligently to bring closure to thislittle did she know her killer lurked but there wasn’t enough evidence bizarre the shadows. Later that day, in 1980 to charge him with murder.her lifeless body was discovered, Flash forward 23 years later to Re-examining evidencedragged into the church sacristy 2003, when a woman, now a nun, Typically, cold case investigationsafter having been brutally stabbed wrote the Toledo Diocese request- begin with a trip down memory lane31 times and strangled. ing compensation for therapy and to the property storage room. Draped with an altar cloth, stab she needed for being molested by Det. Terry Cousino of the Toledowounds on her body formed the priests. Of the names mentioned in Police Department says that one ofshape of an upside-down cross to her letter, one was that of Father the first steps in re-opening a coldsuggest a ritualistic or Satanic killing. Gerald Robinson. case is retrieving every bit of evi-It was one of the most shocking Because Robinson’s name dence originally collected to allow Circle 210 on Reader Service Card22 Law Enforcement Technology ■ August 2007 ■
  4. 4. for proper re-examination. lected at that time, is likely that the ferent shapes of the stains and size “When a case is re-opened, one evidence became unintentionally of the object that made the marksof the first steps is to go to the cross-contaminated due to evidence in the altar cloth, and ultimatelyproperty room and look at all the collection procedures. on Sister Pahl’s body. For his partevidence,” Cousino says. “We look According to Cousino, two of the analysis, Cousino visuallyat everything and collect every weeks after the murder of Sister examined of all of the blood stainsreport and any notes if we can find Pahl, investigators conducted a con- for transfer patterns and measuredthem. We will also contact every sented search of Father Robinson’s and photographed the altar clothwitness who’s still alive.” apartment. They were looking for a to compare the patterns in the cloth At the crime scene on the day of specific type of weapon and when a for consistency.the 1980 murder, the evidence tech- letter opener was found, it became a “The blood stain comparison didnicians collected the altar cloth and piece of evidence that was of great give us a good possible weapon,”took clippings from it for serology interest to investigators. Cousino says.testing. Other items went into the In order to run additional tests,property room and were booked as A pattern of clues investigators needed more DNAevidence. But at that point, there Cousino became involved with evidence. Sister Pahl’s body waswas not a known weapon. the murder investigation in 2004 due exhumed for a second autopsy. The science of DNA analysis to his expertise in blood stain trans- During the 2004 autopsy, awas non-existent in 1980. And fer pattern analysis. In this case, he section of Sister Pahl’s jawbonealthough DNA evidence was col- looked for consistency in the dif- was removed to extract molars Circle 211 on Reader Service Card ■ August 2007 ■ Law Enforcement Technology 23
  5. 5. as DNA evidence. Ironically, the gations in the past 40 years. much harder,” she says, “becauseremoved section of her jawbone He also believes another impor- those are the kinds of things thatcontained a distinctly shaped tant aspect of cold case investigation will change.” The longer a casepuncture wound, consistent with includes fingerprint analysis. remains cold, the more difficult itthose found on the altar cloth and “We solved quite a few cases becomes to solve, even though thewith the letter opener found at recently because the evidence we re- evidence will always stay the same.Father Robinson’s apartment. examined had a latent print which The altar cloth and the letter linked to the suspect,” Lee says. Enlisting cold case expertsopener were compared separately “With a little luck, maybe you In 1980, the Toledo Policein the 1980s, so a likely connection can find some new clues to solve Department requested Lee’s expertwasn’t as easy to make. cold cases.” forensic-investigative advice. “Our analysis of the evidence Dynamics in relationships are com- During this time, he helped to re-was just a little bit different than pletely unscientific compared to DNA examine the scene and worked withit was in the 1980s,” Cousino says. or AFIS, but knowing the dynamics the Toledo Police Department’s“We looked at the same evidence, between suspects and victims is impor- cold case squad to delve deeperbut in a different way.” Cousino tant, because it could change over into the case. Compared tostresses the importance of the the years. When detectives conduct other agencies, Toledo’s Policeinvestigation by all of the detec- interviews with witnesses who knew or Department is fortunate to havetives involved with this case. such a resource. “They did a good job back then, Lee says that it would be ben-but they just didn’t have quite “We looked at the eficial for all police departments toenough to charge Father Robinsonat the time,” he says. same evidence, but in a have cold case investigation units like the Toledo Police Department. different way.” But in reality, large departments areSomething old, only afforded such a luxury.something new — Det. Terry Cousino, “Smaller departments always Toledo Police Department Even though Cousino believes the just have that one officer, oneadvancements and the integration detective trying to coordinateof DNA evidence is very influential were involved with the suspect during the case,” Lee says. “The federalin cold case investigation, he also the time a crime was committed, new government should allocate moresays that Automated Fingerprint clues can emerge. money on cold cases because theIdentification System (AFIS) is very “Relationships may have homicide rate is above 70 percentimportant as well. changed over the years, so the wit- in the United States.” He explains sometimes latent nesses might be a little more forth- There are alternatives, however.palmprints are stored in the evidence coming,” Cousino says, and adds Lee recommends agencies recruitroom for years, and when a case is that in a cold case reinvestigation, an outside consortium for addi-re-opened, prints can be submitted to “you can’t overlook anything.” tional investigation assistanceAFIS for a possible match. Of course, there is a caveat: time, or inquire at universities with “It’s really what allows cold case which can either help or hinder teaching facilities.squads to exist, because AFIS is the an investigation. For example, Lee says manynewest technology that is really help- Winnebago County (Illinois) local departments currently enlisting,” Cousino says. Coroner Elizabeth “Sue” Fiduccia the investigative expertise of the Dr. Henry Lee, founder and agrees. cold case center at the Universityprofessor of the Forensic Science “The problem is, witnesses tend of New Haven to assist with vari-Program at the University of New to move and they die, so if identifi- ous investigations.Haven, Connecticut has assisted cation is made when you’re trying to Lee offers a chilling and sober-with more than 6,000 case investi- solve a cold case, it always gets that ing fact about the amount of cold24 Law Enforcement Technology ■ August 2007 ■
  6. 6. cases that go unsolved every year. then you have a major, major “one little thing” was advanced “The homicide clearance rate is problem.” technology and the science ofbarely is above 70 percent in the DNA evidence.United States,” he says. “Sexual Case solved, case closed “Sometimes another set of eyesassault is at 50 percent and bur- It took more than 26 years to looking at pattern evidence canglary, less than 30 percent. Think solve the murder of Sister Pahl, but shed some new light on a case,”about how many cold cases are hard work and diligence from two Cousino says.unsolved every year.” generations of investigators finally In this particular case, the search For the families of murdered paid off. for viable DNA evidence leadloved ones, unsolved cases takes its Cousino attributes the rigorous investigators to a more clues abouttoll, and they often lose their faith work ethic by everyone involved to the weapon used for the murderin the way criminal investigations the eventual success in solving the of Sister Pahl. This offers hope forare conducted. case, despite the challenges. He says other cold case investigations to be “With those victims’ families investigators went to great lengths solved, if even many years after thewaiting for 10, 20 or 30 years, they to work on this case in the 1980s, crime was committed.start losing the confidence and and it was impressive. “There’s a lot of satisfaction intrust in the justice system,” “But they just didn’t have that finding someone who’s gotten awayLee says. one little thing they needed to solve with murder for many years,” says “When the citizens start to the case,” he continues. With the Cousino. “Those cases are reallylose the trust of the system, investigation of Sister Pahl, that satisfying to work on.” ■ Circle 212 on Reader Service Card ■ August 2007 ■ Law Enforcement Technology 25