Working Smarter on Cold Cases

Identifying Factors Associated with Successful Cold Case Investigations

Published in: Journal of Forensic Sciences, v. 59, no. 2, Mar. 2014, p. 375–382

by Robert C. Davis, Carl Jensen, Lane F. Burgette, Kathryn Burnett

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Cold case squads have garnered much attention; however, they have yet to undergo significant empirical scrutiny. In the present study, the authors interviewed investigators and reviewed 189 solved and unsolved cold cases in Washington, D.C., to determine whether there are factors that can predict cold case solvability. In the interviews, new information from witnesses or information from new witnesses was cited as the most prevalent reason for case clearance. The case reviews determined that there were factors in each of the following domains that predicted whether cases would be solved during cold case investigations: Crime Context, Initial Investigation Results, Basis for Opening Cold Case, and Cold Case Investigator Actions. The results suggest that it is possible to prioritize cold case work based on the likelihood of investigations leading to clearances.

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