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Cold Cases and Forensic Science

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I like watching documentaries that show how the advances in forensic science are leading to many cold cases being solved. And, in some cases, innocence being proved.

But there’s a case in the UK which is a bit different.

In 1984, a teenage girl, Melanie Road, was brutally raped and stabbed to death - 26 times.

In 2014, a woman was arrested for minor criminal damage and her DNA taken. Last year, when her DNA was entered into the national DNA database, a familial link was made to the DNA taken from the 1984 murder scene. But that was only a partial match, one of 200 potential matches. Police traced her and found she had male blood-relatives: her father and brothers. Her brothers were too young to have been the killer. Police contacted her father and he voluntarily gave a DNA swab. His DNA was a match.

He was charged in July last year and on his first appearance in court last December he denied the charge. He then changed his plea to guilty at the last minute – just as his trial was due to begin. He has been sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum of 22 years. As he’s now 64 years old, he’ll likely spend the rest of his life behind bars.

I wonder what his daughter feels about the situation. Apparently, he lived a normal life after the murder, so wouldn’t have come to the attention of the police if it hadn’t been for her minor offence.

More details, including the forensic timeline, and statements from Melanie’s family, here:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3580703/Man-64-pleads-guilty-murder-17-year-old-Melanie-Road-stabbed-death-1984.html

(It’s the Daily Mail so don’t bother reading the comments.)

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It is fascinating how modern technology in forensics has solved many cold cases.  Sadly, yes, some innocent people have been convicted, and some recently released had served a very long sentence.  The other side of the coin, we are catching some bad guys/gals.

Found this site interesting ~ http://really.uktv.co.uk/crime/article/top-10-cold-cases-solved/

TOP 10 COLD CASES SOLVED
The fascination of the cold case is recognisable to any committed detective. But sometimes time can bring clarity, as we discover from these ten cold cases that were originally solved.

    Chandra Levy

The 2001 disappearance of Washington intern Chandra Levy had political repercussions when allegations of an affair surfaced. Although later cleared of any suspicion, California Representative Gary Condit’s political career was ruined. The following year Levy’s remains were found in Rock Creek Park, but it took another seven years for a viable suspect to be found. Ingmar Guandique was arrested for assaulting two other women in the park, and he was eventually found guilty of Levy’s murders and sentenced to 60 years in jail.

Jessica Keen

Jessica’s killer was still roaming free nearly twenty years after her 1991 murder. A one-time cheerleader and A-student, her life had taken a turn for the worse, including a spell in reform school. Found dead in a cemetery, her boyfriend was initially the main suspect but the DNA evidence exonerated him. Instead a random match in 2008 with one Marvin Lee Smith was enough for his arrest. He confessed to raping Jessica before beating her with a tombstone, and was given a minimum of 30 years.

El Segundo police officers

Some cases really do stay cold a long time, with the likelihood of being solved diminishing with every decade. So the 1957 shooting of two Californian police on a traffic stop seemed destined to stay a mystery. A gun was found a year later but it wasn’t until advances in fingerprint technology in 2002 that the stolen car and gun could be linked to Gerald Mason. The suspect was by this time a retired grandfather. He pled guilty and was sentenced to life.

Minnie and Ed Maurin

It isn’t always forensic evidence that catches a killer years later. New information coming to light through informants can also break a cold case open. Despite having two prime suspects almost from the start – the Riffe brothers, who left the area soon afterwards – the murder of this elderly couple remained unsolved from 1985 until 2012. It was additional informant information that finally brought a prosecution against the brothers, who had kidnapped and robbed the couple before shooting them in local woodland.

Helen Sullivan

Mother-of-three Sullivan was found murdered close to her North Long Beach home in 1973. It would take 40 years for DNA testing to find her killer. Forensic evidence had been collected at the time, although technological restrictions had prevented a conclusive lead being found. The reopening of the case lead to a rerunning of DNA through police databases and the discovery of the involvement of Emanuel Miller, a known criminal. However justice came too late – Miller had died some years earlier.

Colette Aram

A nationwide review of cold cases in the UK led to the capture of murderer Paul Hutchinson. His crime was the killing of 16 year old Colette Aram, a trainee hairdresser from Nottingham. She had been strangled as she walked to her boyfriends house in 1983, and her case had been the first ever to appear on the BBC’s Crimewatch. Hutchinson had sent a mocking letter to the police, and it was DNA from this which eventually led to his arrest and life imprisonment some 26 years after the crime.

Linda Strait

Some cases seem clear cut – but without hard evidence they can’t come to trial. This was so in the murder of Linda Strait, a 15-year-old who disappeared as she walked to the local store, and was found the next day floating in the Spokane River. The suspect, Arbie Dean Williams, was already serving a sentence for offences that bore marked similarities, but it took until a grant was awarded for additional testing of existing DNA, that the case could be solved. Williams was charged with her murder in 2004.

Coffee cup evidence

Anti-terrorism powers in the UK have proved very controversial, but they have just been used for the first time to apprehend a violent sex attacker. The attack on two teenagers in 2001 and DNA material was taken from the scene. It wasn’t until the case was reopened in 2007 and the sample run through the national database that a possible match was found. Anti-terror laws allowed police to place the suspect under surveillance and seize a coffee cup he was drinking from to get a better DNA sample. Keith Henderson was subsequently arrested, imprisoned and placed on the sex offenders register for life in 2014.

Joan Harrison

The initial theory about the death of Joan Harrison was that she was a victim of the Yorkshire Ripper, Peter Sutcliff. The 35-year-old was found bludgeoned to death in a Lancashire garage in the late 1970s. To further complicate the investigation, hoaxer Wearside Jack, who wrote letters to police claiming to be the Ripper, said he had committed the crime. In 2008, DNA advances linked the crime to Christopher Smith, who had been arrested for drunk driving. Incredibly he died of a terminal illness just six days later, but left a note confessing to his crime.

Susan Schwarz

It took two ingenious detectives to solve the murder of Susan Schwarz. Shot and strangled near Seattle in 1979, there was no motive or real evidence and the case was cold for 32 years. Two county detectives came up with the idea of printing cold case victims photographs on packs of cards to distribute to prisons. The image of Susan brought forward a key piece of new evidence. An inmate had been a child at the time of the murder, and had been an eye witness. His evidence led to the conviction of a local 57 year-old-man.

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This caught my eye over the weekend too, thanks Libby. It is amazing how DNA is providing answers in cold cases and some small comfort for the families and victims. That was a seriously vicious and cruel thing to do a person, he's (the killer) been on borrowed time he wasn't entitled too. Now he must pay the price.

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I totally agree Old Man and if I found out my father raped and murdered this girl , I would be glad that karma finally brought him to justice !

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What's so sad is consider how many children are experiencing the same thing right now, and the damage it will do to them.  Some fathers, brothers, uncles, family friends, may never be caught, but I agree with Walkabout about karma.  We do reap what we sow.  Yes, there are many times we are victims because there is evil in the world, but it works both ways, you sow good, you reap good.  And if someone isn't brought to justice in this life, guess what's waiting for them on the other side.

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Yes, he was living a life he wasn't entitled to. And he was living a lie - he wasn't a "normal" person, he couldn't be. Not only to have committed such an horrific crime, but also to have presented himself to society afterwards as just an ordinary bloke. His evil towards that young girl spread to her family, his family, friends, colleagues. And then he compounded the evil by knowing what crime was involved when he was asked for a DNA swab - and yet he denied everything for ten months, keeping the girl's family on tenterhooks as to whether they'd ever see justice for Melanie.

I don't believe in karma or an afterlife, but he'll have to live with the knowledge that now everyone knows exactly what he is, as will his fellow inmates.

I wonder how many other vicious criminals are wondering (fearing?) that forensic science will eventually catch them.

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Not only the vicious criminals that need to be caught, but thankful for updated forensic science to help release those that are innocent.

I respect your personal beliefs Libby, and know that I would never try to discuss or debate karma or the afterlife with you.  Was just stating my own personal perspectives and belief.  Love and huggers.  :23::52:

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Apologies, Earthnut - my response was too harsh and dismissive.

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It's okay Libby, no apologies needed.  You were just sharing your perspective, just as I was.  Again, I give you  :23:  &  :52:

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Thanks, Earthnut. Although we do have different perspectives, we do want the same thing - that justice happens for both the guilty and the innocent.

I guess I was angry about this particular individual - which is probably why vigilantism is not a good thing.

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