Welcome to Ohio Valley Cold Cases

Home Of The Ohio Valley Cold Case Initiative

Monday, October 31, 2011

Sunday, October 30, 2011

More Cases Added

There are now 50 unsolved murder, missing persons and questionable death cases in the Ohio Valley. Read More

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Saturday, September 24, 2011

How To Request a Cold Case To Be Reexamined

We are honored to welcome Joseph L. Giacalone as the first guest blogger at ovcoldcases.com

How To Request A Cold Case To Be Reexamined

Anyone can ask for a cold case to be reexamined. However, investigators would prefer that it came from a family member or someone that had information to further the case.  When a case is reexamined it tends to bring up all of the unpleasantness and emotions from the event, so a non family member, i.e. friend, media, etc., should reach out to the next of kin first. Once the investigator hears from the family, the inquest will be started.

Nothing begets more action than a well written letter to the agency head. These letters must contain as much accurate information about the incident as possible, such as:

   Who you are, how to contact you and why you want the case reexamined
   Date and time of the event
   Location of the event
   Name of the victim (including nicknames), date of birth, last address, etc.
   Copy of the death certificate or what hospital the victim went to - if applicable

Perpetrators don’t realize the wheels that are set in motion when they choose murder as a means to fix their problem. Detectives understand what is at stake. They are sometimes the sole voice and advocate for the victim, a job that they take very seriously.  For this reason, homicides are never closed, so nothing ever needs to be reopened, just reexamined. Many, if not all police departments, have at least one member dedicated solely to investigating cold cases.

The requester must understand this next important point: cold case detectives will take the request seriously, however, the request may not warrant a new investigation. If solvability factors do not exist, such as DNA, physical evidence and/or witnesses, the case cannot move forward. The case will remain on the shelf with the hopes of new developments in the future. 

When investigative leads dry up and a series of new investigations roll in, the case is placed on the shelf waiting for the day when a FRESH look can be taken. Family members and interested parties have to understand that in general, an investigator needs one or more of the following in order to evaluate the case:

Forensic/DNA advancements
Relationship changes
Eyewitness finally comes forward
Has a new charge or an axe to grind

Forensic/DNA advancements

Developments in Forensics and DNA testing are occurring rapidly.  What wasn’t even a thought yesterday is reality today. The use of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) and Familial DNA has allowed investigators to develop suspects on an otherwise hopeless case. Investigators spend most of their time locating evidence and hope that it wasn’t lost or destroyed. Once evidence is secured, it can be resubmitted for testing.  In many jurisdictions, evidence can be found in two places: (1) the police department and (2) the medical examiner’s office or counterpart, i.e. coroner.

Relationship changes

Husbands, wives, boyfriends, girlfriends and friends often have a falling out. A disgruntled lover can be a treasure trove of information. Sometimes, these breaks in relationships bear enemies that often cooperate with the police - even when there is a strong dislike or distrust of the police. As the old maxim goes, “The enemy of my enemy, is my friend.” 

Eyewitness finally comes forward

What makes someone finally come forward after 30 years? Guilt or they are no longer fearful of coming forward. Someone knows the information that would be needed to solve the case, but either out of fear or something else, refuses to step forward.  However, over time, that guilt eats away at a person subconscious and forces the information to the surface.


Perpetrators, or witnesses that have been holding their secrets back, eventually find themselves on their deathbed, maybe sooner than they thought. In order to clear their own minds and to “make it right” they come clean and provide useful information in cold cases.  

Has a new charge

The best “luck” that a cold case detective can have is when a potential witness or friend of the perpetrator finds himself in trouble with the Criminal Justice System and wants to play, “Let’s Make a Deal.” There are some people that purposely withhold useful information because they know that some day it may be their ticket out of trouble. Remember, the district attorney is the only person that can promise a “deal” for cooperation.

Cold case investigations are extremely difficult to solve - there are good reasons why the case is cold to begin with. I am frequently asked what can I do?  Besides remaining patient, the family member has tools available to them that didn’t exist a few short years ago.  Social media sites can play an integral part in helping detectives with the case. Recently, a case in Nassau County, New York, spurred new investigative leads after a posting on the victim’s Facebook page.  Whatever type of venue that is chosen for the memorial page, it must have the capability for visitors to post comments.

Investigators in the past have had luck identifying suspects when they showed up at the  grave site and/or crime scene on anniversary dates, so why wouldn’t they do the same things at a virtual grave site and/or crime scene page? The social media page can play to the behavioral side of the killer. Hopefully, a well crafted page will induce the perpetrator to inject himself back into the investigation in order to make himself feel relevant and powerful again.

A veteran Detective Sergeant and Commanding Officer of a Cold Case Squad that has investigated hundreds of homicides, cold cases and missing persons. Joe is the author of the Criminal Investigative Function: A Guide for New Investigators published by Looseleaf Law Publications, Inc.Now Available

Saturday, July 23, 2011

All Cases Summary

See a full listing of more than 30 unsolved homicide, missing person or questionable death cases in the Ohio Valley. Read More

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Richard "Spike" Sterling

If anyone has any information about the 1979 disappearance of Richard "Spike" Sterling of Rayland, OH, would you please contact us anonymously at tips@ovcoldcases.com

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Speaking At Lions Club

I will be telling the Wheeling Lions Club about my Ohio Valley Cold Case Initiative tomorrow at noon.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Deputizing Social Media Nation

With everyone embracing social media as a way to build their brand, why not think even further out of the box and bring in a public service element?

How cool would it be if your Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin presence or your Blog prompted the one tip that ultimately solves a years-old cold case?

The Interactive Cold Case Map on this blog site is a graphic — if not chilling — visual of more than 30 unsolved murder, suspicious death and missing person cases within a 25-mile radius of a point between Bridgeport, Ohio and Wheeling, W.Va. More will be added as information becomes available.

This unspeakable travesty of justice has prompted us to birth the Ohio Valley Cold Case Initiative. A part of our effort is to create an interstate, multi-jurisdictional Task Force of reputable retired police investigators working with current law enforcement agencies to investigate these cases.

Another part of the initiative is to lobby local, state and national elected officials for funding exclusively for cold case investigation. This has happened in other jurisdictions around the country and we believe our 25-mile circle deserves the same attention. We need you to help get their attention by showing strength in numbers. This blog site currently has 30 followers. You can help grow that to thousands simply by showing an interest. Sign on as a public follower.

Ironically, one of the most talked about victims in the Ohio Valley unknowingly issues a call of duty to all of us from the grave. It has been 34 years since someone raped and murdered Sister Roberta Elam, a 26-year-old postulant nun, in broad daylight on the grounds of the Mount St. Joseph Convent. Inside her personal bible, police found a hand-written note with these words: “So long as I can see, I will keep looking. So long as I can walk, I will keep moving. So long as I can stand, I will keep fighting.”

At the time of her death, Sister Robin had a mother and father, a sister and two brothers. She and all of these victims left behind brokenhearted loved ones who need your help.

If you want to make a difference, raise you mouse and repeat this oath:

I will do everything in my power to give voice to the silenced lips of these victims and help their families find justice.
I will sign on as a follower to the ovcoldcases.com blog.
I will share this post with all of my Facebook friends and/or Linkedin connections and/or retweet it to my Twitter followers.
I will blog about this initiative and add ovcoldcases.com to my Blog Role.
I will encourage my friends, connections and followers to do the same.

Congratulations! You are now an authorized Ohio Valley Cold Case Deputy. The victims’ surviving loved ones thank you. 

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Monday, June 20, 2011

Cold Case Initiative

With more than 30 known unsolved murder, questionable death and missing person cases within a 25-mile radius, it’s obvious the Upper Ohio Valley has a problem that cannot be ignored any longer.
Local law enforcement agencies are aware of the situation but, the truth is, they are over burdened working current crime cases. Limited manpower and financial resources put cold cases on the back burner.
Cold cases are reviewed periodically when a new lead develops but there is nobody getting out of bed every morning to work them. With the exception of some big cities, there are no full-time cold case investigators in Ohio or West Virginia.
The question is: What are we going to do about it?
OVcoldcases.com is working to assemble an interstate, multi-jurisdictional Cold Case Task Force comprised of reputable retired police officers from both sides of the Ohio River volunteering their time to do some legwork exclusively on cold cases. We believe experienced officers from different counties or jurisdictions may see something the original investigators missed. They may have new ideas not thought of before.
The task force will work in harmony with current law enforcement agencies. County prosecutors will be involved to sort out logistics of how the unit will operate. There must be a protocol in place concerning the questioning of suspects, witnesses or informants; the handling evidence and other procedures that would come into play if the case goes to court.
There are other task force units like this around the country and we are looking at some of those as a model to be used here in the Ohio Valley. If all else fails, we will develop a model of our own.
Once the unit is formed, we can lobby local, state and federal elected officials for grant money or other funding exclusively for cold cases. The U.S. Department of Justice has funded cold case squads in other jurisdictions. We will shake every political tree until some cold case money falls out. We are also looking into finding local business leaders interested in creating a reward fund.
Our mission has always been to shine light onto these unsolved cases with a hope of giving voice to the silenced lips of the victims. Experience shows us that there can never be closure for surviving loved ones — but there can be justice.
These victims may be gone but they are not forgotten; and their surviving loved ones are not forgotten.
OVcoldcases.com stands ready as a conduit to feed information from the public to the Cold Case Task Force.  
We can do this.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Note To Tipster

Would the person who commented on Tuesday about the 1983 case please email me privately with contact information. I would love to talk to you off the record. fredconnors@comcast.net.
Thank you!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Murray Case Added

The case of Charles and Kate Murray has been added to the Cold Case Files.