COLD CASE EPIDEMIC: Is it time to privatize unsolved homicides?

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There are 285,000 or so men, women, and children lying in the morgues, graveyards, and dumping grounds of America.

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This is the approximate number of people murdered since 1980 whose cases have gone ice-cold and consigned to dusty basement shelves.

That’s about five times the number of people who died in the killing fields of Vietnam and no one seems to be doing anything about it.

In places like Chicago, one body is barely cold before detectives move on to the next unfortunate soul.

Alex Baber believes he has the answer to this modern tragedy and can close classics of the cold-case canon like the Black Dahlia, the Freeway Phantom, Texarkana Moonlight Murderer, and Oakland County’s Child Killer.

These are mysteries that date as far back as 1947 when the defiled remains of Elizabeth Short — aka the Black Dahlia — were discovered in an empty lot at 39th and Norton in Los Angeles.

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Victims of Washingtons Freeway Phantom. HANDOUT/ MWPD
Victims of Washingtons Freeway Phantom. HANDOUT/ MWPD

Baber and his wife, J-Lynn Baber, are the founders of the Cold Case Consultants of America (CCCOA) and together, the Pennsylvania-based duo have assembled an all-star roster of investigative and forensic experts.

“The numbers are staggering. In homicides over the last 40 years, the bad guys really are getting the upper hand,” Baber told the Toronto Sun .

Part of the problem has been funding. Resources are frequently shifted to the current carnage, not historic homicides. Toss in miscommunication and solving a murder becomes a lot tougher.

“The cold cases are then filed away on a hard drive or in a warehouse. Sometimes it takes a phone call from relatives to get any action,” Baber said.

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He added that in some cases his team is looking at, police detectives may have busted the wrong man, like in the case of Chicago’s infamous Lipstick Killer, William Heirens, who died in the joint after more than 65 years in the slammer. Baber doesn’t think he did it.

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Was William Hierans really The Lipstick Killer? PHOTOGRAPHER/ GETTY IMAGES
Was William Hierans really The Lipstick Killer? PHOTOGRAPHER/ GETTY IMAGES

In addition, CCCOA has compiled the largest known singular database of letters written by serial killers, dating back to 1944. The collection features more than 500 letters, which have been digitized and cross-checked for forensic patterns, their origin, correlating content, and any linguistic similarities.

But it is human pain that drives Baber and his team. Behind every cold case are devastated families who have often waited decades for answers.

“We have never declined a single request from a family looking for help,” Baber said, adding that sometimes ego in law enforcement derails a case. “And the people who suffer are the families.”

Many of the cases CCCOA are looking at have long been considered no-hopers, but because of technological advances and forensics, that’s changing.

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“With the ever-growing effect of crime on our society, law enforcement agencies on every level have been forced to evolve new forensic solutions as a countermeasure,” Baber said.

Victims of the Oakland County Child Killer in suburban Detroit. HANDOUT/ DPD
Victims of the Oakland County Child Killer in suburban Detroit. HANDOUT/ DPD

“Advancements like magnetic fingerprinting, DNA sequencing and facial reconstruction have assisted law enforcement and cold case specialists in identifying perpetrators who may have been overlooked using traditional investigative tools.”

When tackling a case, the CCCOA team starts at “square one,” scouring long-dormant police files. But, Baber said, cops shouldn’t look at his team as rivals because “we’re going to the same destination.”

He believes that in long-cold historical homicides, police should release evidence to the public and use citizen expertise to help solve these crimes. Unfortunately, in most cases, police investigators “don’t want to take it on the chin.

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“This is now the best way to help victims’ families who have been waiting a long time for closure,” he added. “And we’re privately-funded, so no one has to support or pay us.”

He added: “And there have been mistakes made that can exonerate innocent people who have spent decades behind bars because of police tunnel vision.”

Meanwhile, the beat goes on. A slew of American cities saw record-shattering homicide numbers over the past several years, not seen since the early 1990s at the height of the crack cocaine wars.

There will be more cold cases, more broken families, more tears, and more heartache.

bhunter@postmedia.com

@HunterTOSun

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