Ten unsolved homicides covered on this site could officially become cold cases at the end of 2014, meaning leads have been exhausted and further investigation will move out of MPD’s regular homicide division.
Cases that go unsolved for four years are transferred to the Cold Case Unit on a case-by-case basis, according to MPD Spokesman Lieutenant Sean Conboy.
“If there are leads to pursue, we will investigate a case regardless of how old it is,” Conboy wrote in an email interview. “The amount of time devoted to a case is not determined by the age of the case, but rather by the time required to properly and completely investigate the leads.”
Unlike typical homicide investigations, Lt. Conboy says cold cases are not assigned to any particular detective. The Family Liaison Specialists Unit (FLSU) provides support and advocacy, in addition to suggesting community-based resources to assist the victims’ next-of-kin.
At this point, families of victims have to go through the FLSU if they wish to receive updates and to remain in contact with the department, Lt. Conboy says.
“The hardest part about interacting with families is when we have to report to them that there has not been significant progress in the investigation, and all current investigative leads have been exhausted,” says Conboy.
Family members frequently ask for specific updates on cases, Conboy said, but the MPD can’t always share when there is progress, due to the nature of cold cases and how they need to be handled.
“In most cases this information cannot be released, even to the next-of-kin, in order to maintain the integrity of the investigation,” Conboy said. “This can be very difficult and frustrating for the family members, who want to know details of the investigation, what witnesses said etc.”
As cases grow older, witness statements are less reliable. Newly discovered witnesses may not be able to remember much of what they saw.
Technology, on the other hand, can allow time to work in the MPD’s favor. DNA analysis can be used to analyze evidence that was gathered at a time when the technology to do so did not exist. As technology continues to advance, there is potential hope for older cases.
And there are still courses of action that a victim’s family can take to expedite the investigation process.
“If families obtain pertinent information, they should provide it to a member of the Cold Case Squad,” Conboy said. “They can also hand out reward fliers which can be obtained from the department.”
Cold case definitions differ by city. In the District, unsolved cases must meet several criteria before they are officially considered cold cases.
To start with, unsolved cases need to be investigated for fours years. Then, in the event that all leads have been considered and pursued, the assigned detective will review the case with a supervisor to determine additional courses of action. On the condition that further steps cannot be taken at the present time, the case is transferred to the Cold Case Squad.
Ten homicides have been classified as cold cases since Homicide Watch DC launched in 2010:Michael Manuel Moss-Cornish’s friends knew him as Tino. The 22-year-old died from gunshot wounds in a double shooting on Oct. 3, 2010, in the 600 block of Harvard Street Northwest. Moss-Cornish lived in Silver Spring, Maryland, where he worked as an interpreter and waiter at Austin Grill. Moss-Cornish was fluent in Spanish and Portuguese, according to his obituary.
Mujahid Taalibdin, 21, was shot and killed at approximately 1:10 a.m. near the 300 block of Southern Avenue, Southeast on Oct. 10, 2010, according to an MPD press release. On Oct. 29, 2010, MPD released a video from Shell gas station surveillance footage in hopes that the public might identify the individuals, who police described as “persons of interest.”
Thirty-seven year-old Darnell Antoine Lucas was shot and killed on Oct. 27, 2010, according to police. Lucas, 37, lived in Capital Heights, Md.
Seventeen year-old Scott Brian Tolson Staten died from gunshot wounds on Dec. 8, 2010. Staten was already dead when police found him at approximately 8:30 a.m. in the 1300 block of Half Street, Southwest.
Antonio R. Wade, 18, was found inside a car with a gunshot wound in the 1700 block of 14th Street at around 2:30 a.m. on Dec. 11, 2010. Four other people were shot near where police found Wade’s body.
Police found James Campbell, of Bladensberg, Maryland, just before 8:00 p.m. on Dec. 12, 2010. Campbell, 25, was suffering from gunshot wounds when he was discovered near the 2900 block of Southern Street, Southeast.
Raj Patel, 46, was the manager of Brookland’s Newton Foodmart who was shot in the chest during an armed robbery at 6:40 p.m. on Dec. 18, 2010. Police were looking for two suspects, one wearing a gray hooded sweatshirt with a black patch on the hat and another suspect wearing a black hooded sweatshirt. “We need your help to close this horrible crime,” Metro Police Commander Lamar Greene said in a message on the 5th District’s listserv the following day.
Twenty-nine year-old Aaron Levi Woodfork was found suffering from gunshot wounds in the 2100 block of Bladensberg Road, Northeast at 3:30 a.m. on Dec. 19, 2010. Police found another unidentified victim at the scene who was taken to a local hospital and treated.
Because cases were eligible for transfer to Cold Case after three years before 2012, cases from 2011 will begin being transferred on a case-by-case basis after the New Year, according to Conboy.