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August 12th, 2014

The Skeleton Crew by Deborah Halber

The Skeleton Crew: How Amateur Sleuths Are Solving America’s Coldest Cases by Deborah Halber
I just heard about a new book that I’m sure will be of interest to readers of this blog. It’s called
The Skeleton Crew: How Amateur Sleuths Are Solving America’s Coldest Cases and it was written by freelance journalist Deborah Halber.

Among Halber’s many accomplishments, she was the editor for the magazine of my alma mater, Tufts, and a science writer for MIT (envy!).

The Skeleton Crew is getting great reviews, and here’s just one, from Sue Grafton:

“The Skeleton Crew is a carefully crafted account of an intriguing new opportunity for arm chair sleuths. Thanks to the Internet, anyone with a computer, curiosity, patience, and a passion for justice can enter the dark world of missing persons and unsolved homicides. It’s fascinating to learn how such matches are made and heartening to witness the growing cooperation between law enforcement and ordinary citizens whose persistence can sometimes crack the code in cold cases that have languished unresolved for years. I loved it.”

I know from experience how passionate these arm chair sleuths are, and how effective they can be. Their very existence and persistence helped bring the national databases (of missing persons and unsolved murders) into being, and I’m very glad their story is being told.

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June 15th, 2014

Congratulations to the NYPD’s Cold Case and Apprehension Squad

The Cold Case and Apprehension Squad got a unit citation for 2013, for “Arresting 10 individuals for committing years old homicides throughout NYC. This eight person unit has worked tirelessly in investigation and enforcement, collaborating with numerous agencies in the U.S and overseas. Their extensive efforts have successfully achieved justice for victims and their families by solving these cold case homicides.”

Six cases were listed, which resulted in 10 arrests.

The picture below is from the City’s webpage and NYPD’s Facebook page. Accepting the citation for the Cold Case Squad is Sgt. Daniel Chiarantano, but I’ve never met him so I can’t point out which one he is!

Congratulations to the Cold Case Squad and everyone else whose work was honored that day.


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April 6th, 2014

Bratton and the Future of the Cold Case Squad

I wonder what the return of Police Commissioner William Bratton might mean for the NYPD’s Cold Case Squad? Bratton was Commissioner when the Cold Case Squad was put in place, and he was very supportive of the squad. I read that he increased the LAPD’s Cold Case Homicide Unit when he was their Chief of Police. In direct contrast, former Commissioner Ray Kelly allowed to the NYPD’s Cold Case Squad to shrink from 49 detectives in 1996, the year they were established, to an all-time low of only 7 detectives. I know the focus shifted to counter-terrorism, but that’s 7 detectives covering roughly 10,000 unsolved murders going back to 1985. The squad is currently up to 8.

The Chief of Detectives wants to beef up the unit, I’ve heard. I know it’s never going back up to 49, but surely they could use a little more help.

The earliest picture I could find of the NYPD’s Cold Case Squad.


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February 13th, 2014

I Thought I was a Dogged Researcher!

Josh Levin shows how it’s done. This is a little different for this blog, but unsolved cases are a part of this fascinating and terrifying piece about Linda Taylor, the woman Ronald Reagan liked to use as an example of how the welfare system was broken. Apparently, he didn’t know the half of it. From the story:

“When I set out in search of Linda Taylor, I hoped to find the real story of the woman who played such an outsize role in American politics—who she was, where she came from, and what her life was like before and after she became the national symbol of unearned prosperity. What I found was a woman who destroyed lives, someone far more depraved than even Ronald Reagan could have imagined. In the 1970s alone, Taylor was investigated for homicide, kidnapping, and baby trafficking. The detective who tried desperately to put her away believes she’s responsible for one of Chicago’s most legendary crimes, one that remains unsolved to this day. Welfare fraud was likely the least of the welfare queen’s offenses.”

You can read the full piece here.

This picture is a detail from a photograph from the piece.


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