Boulder DA Forming Cold Case Unit to Review Unsolved Homicides — Including JonBenet Ramsey
Boulder County District Attorney Michael Dougherty is forming a cold case unit to investigate unsolved homicides and missing persons cases, which would include the 1996 slaying of JonBenet Ramsey .
“There are over 30 other names on this list, and the impact on the families and the community is extremely significant,” Dougherty said. “And that’s what drives us.”
Boulder County has more than 30 cold cases, including four John Doe cases, which have unidentified victims who were believed to have been murdered. Some go back decades, while others are more recent, such as the 2013 missing person case of Tiannah Marie Annibal. Colorado has a total of 1,500 cold cases.
A cold case is defined as a homicide or missing person case that remains unsolved for one year after the event was initially reported to law enforcement, and for which the applicable statute of limitations hasn’t expired. There are no limitations for first-degree murder.
Chief Trial Deputy Fred Johnson and senior investigator Gary Thatcher, both of whom have experience with cold cases, will be assigned to the cold case unit in addition to their current responsibilities, Dougherty said, so additional staff won’t be hired. Both Johnson and Thatcher have also been invited to join the statewide cold case review team, which looks at cold cases from agencies across Colorado and gives advice on how to pursue them.
Forming a cold case unit was a priority for Dougherty since he became district attorney in March , he said. In Jefferson County, where he served as an assistant district attorney, the cold case unit has led to several resolutions.
Cases go cold for a number of reasons, Dougherty said, including a lack of science, the exhaustion of leads and, sometimes, a lack of resources.
“That’s why I’m confident if we go back and put in more time and resources,” progress can be made on the cases, he said.
Boulder County is taking five murder cases to trial this year and has seen a 30 percent increase in filed felony cases since 2015, which is keeping the office busy.
Creating a unit focused on the issue is the most effective way to solve cold cases, Dougherty said.
“Otherwise the boxes sit on a shelf somewhere,” he said.
The district attorney’s office will first analyze cases to see whether they can potentially be solved and whether more resources should be poured into them. That includes looking at physical evidence to see if there is DNA that can be evaluated with new technology.
The office and local law enforcement agencies will coordinate efforts on the cases. Dougherty was encouraged when he talked with local department chiefs and they had suggestions for investigations to pursue.
“These are cases that haunt them, because they believe they can be solved,” he said.
Madeline St. Amour: 303-684-5212, email@example.com