Crimes are committed every day, and we rely on law enforcement to go out and solve them so justice can be served. But sometimes, there just isn’t enough evidence to lead the police to the truth, and a case goes cold. The show Cold Case aired for seven seasons, and other crime shows like CSI and Law and Order have been around for years. People are fascinated by the ways police and scientists interpret evidence to solve crimes, and with developing technology, there are new breakthroughs every single day that could help solve a crime that was unsolvable years ago.
Imagine not knowing what happened to a loved one? Or watching a person you know committed a crime, walk free because of lack of evidence? That is happening less and less these days because of new ways to interpret DNA, and a crime scene. If evidence is stored correctly, it is now possible for police to go back to cold cases, and take a fresh look at what happened. Here are 10 cold cases that were solved years later, thanks to the perseverance of investigators, advanced DNA technology, and a lucky break.
Krystal Beslanowitch – Solved 18 years later
17-year-old Krystal Beslanowitch was working as a prostitute in Utah when she was found dead on the banks of the Provo River in December 1995. She had been bludgeoned to death. Lead investigator, Todd Bonner worked the case until it went cold from lack of evidence, but he never forgot about it. Even after being promoted to Sheriff, he still checked in on the case from time to time. “It’s the case that haunted me for almost my whole career, ” Bonner said. In 2013, new DNA technology was able to extract DNA from the rock that was used to bludgeon Beslanowitch, and it was a match to Joseph Simpson, who had already served time for murder. The technology used to identify Simpson was a “forensic vaccum” tool which allowed investigators to extract up to 40% more DNA from the murder weapon.
Jessica Keen – Solved 17 years later
The murder of 15-year-old Jessica Keen remained unsolved for 17 years, despite suspicion that her boyfriend did it. Keen’s parents had put her into a home for troubled teens after she started dating 18-year-old Steve Turner, and her grades dropped drastically. She was abducted on March 15th, 1991, and her body was found two days later, raped and badly beaten, in a cemetery 20 miles from her home. Turner’s DNA was not a match to what was found on Keen’s body, and after that the case went cold. 17 years later, the state of Ohio passed a law requiring all inmates to provide a DNA sample. Inmate, Marvin Lee Smith Jr. was a match, and he admitted to raping and beating Keen. He was sentenced to life in prison.
Jimmy Casino – Solved 21 years later
The murder of James Lee Stockwell, aka Jimmy Casino, was one of Orange County’s most notorious cold cases. Until police finally made an arrest in 2008, 21 years after Casino was shot in the back of the head in his home. Casino was a well known strip club owner, and his murder was thought to be over the control of The Mustang Topless Theater, a popular strip club in Santa Ana. Casino was something of an up-and-coming gangster, with a rap sheet that included tax evasion, counterfeiting, conspiracy, and extortion, and his money problems contributed to his death. Richard C. Morris Jr. was arrested in 2008, and found guilty of the murder mostly due to DNA evidence.
Pamela Jackson & Cheryl Miller – Solved 43 years later
Pam Jackson and Cheryl Miller, both 17, vanished on their way to a party in 1971, and their family feared the worst. David Lykken was suspected of kidnapped and killing the girls, because of testimony from a jailhouse informant who claimed Lykken had bragged about the crime. But in 2014, because of low water levels, the Studebaker the girls were driving to the party was found, with both of their remains inside. The ignition and headlights were on, and one tire was damaged, making it pretty clear that their disappearance was the result of a car accident, and not foul play. Charges against Lykken were dismissed, but he remains in prison on an unrelated rape charge until 2033.
Richard Phillips and Milton Curtis – Solved 46 years later
When two California police officers, Richard Phillips and Milton Curtis were gunned down in 1957, a massive manhunt was launched to catch the perpetrator. The murder weapon was found and traced to a man named George Wilson. But the name turned out to be an alias, and the trail went cold for 46 years. In 2002, because of advancements in computerized fingerprint technology, a partial thumb print found on the murder weapon was matched to Gerald Mason, who had spent the last four and a half decades as a law abiding family man. He admitted to killing to officers in order to over up crimes he has committed earlier that same evening. At the age of 68, Mason was given two life sentences, and had already been denied parole once.
Lucy Johnson – Solved 52 years later
Lucy Johnson from Surrey, B.C, disappeared in 1961, but her husband, Marvin, didn’t report her missing until 1965, which naturally, sparked some suspicion. Authorities dug up his entire backyard looking for clues, but never found anything to indicate what happened to Lucy. Marvin died in the late 1990s without ever providing any clues to help solve the mystery. Lucy’s daughter Linda, who was only a child when her mother disappeared, took an interest in the RCMP’s continued search. She put up flyers, and posted ads online, and a woman called to say that Lucy Johnson was also her mother, and she was alive and well living in Yukon. Turns out Lucy had left her kids behind with a husband who abused her, and started a new life in another province.
Etan Patz – Solved 33 years later
6-year-old Etan Patz was the first missing child to ever be featured on the side of a milk carton. He vanished in 1979, and was declared legally dead in 2001, even though to this day, his remains have never been found. The main suspect was convicted child molester, Jose Ramos, and he was declared responsible for Patz’s death in a civil case in 2004, but he remains unprosecuted. Investigators decided to re-open the case in 2010, and after two years a man named Pedro Hernandez confessed to killing Patz. Hernandez has been charged with second degree murder, despite arguments from his lawyers that his low intelligence, and history of mental illness should render his confession inadmissible. Currently, there is a trial scheduled for January 2015, so the ending to this cold case remains to be seen.
Mia Zapata – Solved 10 years later
Punk band, The Gits, was just starting to find success in the Seattle grunge music scene in the early 90s, when their lead singer, Mia Zapata, was murdered. She was raped, beaten, and strangled on her walk home one night in July of 1993. The Seattle music community, including members of Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden, helped to raise money to hire a private investigator for three years, and after the money ran out, the investigator, Leigh Hearon, continued to work on the case in her own time. It wasn’t until 2003, when STR technology was developed to analyze DNA found on Zapata’s body. Jesus Mezquia, a Florida fisherman with history of violence against women, was arrested, and convicted of the murder. He was sentenced to 36 years in prison.
Lisa Marie Kimmell “Lil’ Miss” – Solved 14 years later
Lisa Marie Kimmell was 19 years old when she disappeared while driving home from a friend’s house in Montana. Eight days after she was last seen, her body was found floating in the North Platte River near Casper, Wyoming. The autopsy determined that she had been tied up, beaten, and raped for at least 6 days before her death. Most of the investigation centered around witness statements that they saw Kimmell’s Honda with the distinctive license plate, “Lil’ Miss” around town. But her car, a key piece of evidence, had vanished without a trace. It wasn’t until DNA technology was advanced enough to match seminal evidence to an inmate, Dale Wayne Eaton, that witnesses came forward to report they had seen Eaton digging a large hole in his backyard around the time of the murder. Upon excavating, Kimmell’s black Honda was unearthed, complete with the “Lil’ Miss” license plate. Eaton was charged, and sentenced to death, but received a stay of execution, and is currently the only death row inmate in the state of Wyoming.
Sherri Rasmussen – Solved 23 years later
Newlywed, Sherri Rasmussen had expressed distress over her new husband’s ex-girlfriend, Stephanie Lazarus, to a few different people before her murder in 1986, but everyone, including her husband told her there was nothing to worry about. Rasmussen was found shot three times in her home on February 24, 1986, and investigator’s worked under the assumption it had been a robbery gone wrong, despite the bite mark found on Rasmussen’s arm. Rasmussen’s father told the police multiple times that Lazarus might have been involved, but detectives told him, he “watched too much television”. Years went by, and Lazarus became a high ranking LAPD detective. In 2009, the case was re-opened, and after all leads pointed to Lazarus, a DNA sample was obtained, and it matched the bite mark on Rasmussen’s arm. Lazarus was arrested, and convicted of first-degree murder, and is currently serving a life sentence.