According to a recent report by WCNC, the CMPD’s cold case squad is thriving. Created six years ago, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department’s sexual assault cold case unit, has had tremendous success solving sexual assault cases that no one ever thought would be solved. It was one of the first sexual assault cold case teams in the nation. Initially, only one detective was assigned to solve the cold cases, but since then, the department has received grants from the Justice Department to thoroughly staff the squad.
In addition to the detectives, the squad also has its own prosecutor dedicated to ensuring that the perpetrators of these crimes are brought to justice. Barry Cook, once a member of the Mecklenburg County District Attorney’s office, came out of retirement to assist the cold case squad in prosecuting the offenders that they are successful in apprehending. Cook said, “There’s a lot of satisfaction in playing a part in solving these cold case sex crimes and putting whoever’s responsible for these crimes in prison.”
The cold case squad spends the majority of its time meticulously going over old case files. They try to find new avenues of investigation and look for new evidence to test for biological evidence, the presence of which will make the prosecution relatively easy, according to Cook. The team has the luxury of the advances in technology that the original detectives involved in these cold cases did not have. New technology allows technicians to extract DNA from the most miniscule of biological samples. Samples that were once thought of as too degraded for analysis are now proving to be useful pieces of evidence.
Challenges, however, are present even with the advances in technology. The presence of DNA does not necessarily lead to a conviction. The detectives still have to conduct a thorough investigation to contextualize the DNA evidence should it even be present. Detective Troy Armstrong, a member of the team, said, “DNA is why we can solve these cold case rapes. . . . But DNA is not the magic bullet. It’s only a part of the puzzle. We have to put the entire puzzle together. It’s not a slam-dunk case just because we have DNA.”
Several other challenges come from the prosecution side of the case. There is always the possibility that key witnesses in the case have died or their memories have faded. It has happened to the squad once before. The squad had built cases against 29 men for 45 sexual assaults, but on two occasions, the cases were lost. One was lost because of questions about the rape victim’s past and the other was lost because the important witnesses had passed away during the time the case was cold.
What does this mean for Charlotte criminal defense attorneys? It means that there may be an increase in caseload for criminal defense attorneys. The challenges to solving cold cases often work in favor of the defendants because of time and delay. If you find yourself facing a criminal charge from several decades ago or a more recent charge, please contact the criminal defense attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC at 704-370-2828.
“Dedicated CMPD cold case unit solving decades-old rapes,” by Gary L. Wright, published at WCNC.com.
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