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Tips, not evidence often thaw cold cases

POSTED: June 8, 2009 9:32 a.m.
It has been 17 years since Don Rowson’s body was found inside a truck parked in the parking lot of the Gold and Silver Pawn shopping center.
“He had been stabbed repeatedly and struck in the head with some object,” Det. Thomas Cribbs said Friday.
Public tips on the case led Cribbs and his team of 10 homicide detectives to a few clues and one person of interest, but after six months, Cribbs said the case turned cold.
“We ran out of leads,” he said. “We just ran everything that we could run on it.”
Currently there are three frozen cases the Hinesville Police Department’s Homicide team is still trying to solve.  
Rowson’s case is one of them, the other two involve more recent events; the 2006 home-invasion killing of Nathan Jones, 20, and the 2007 Regency Terrace apartment shooting death of Damon Andre Hardy, 21.
“Usually, we’re able to solve a lot of cases within 72 hours,” Cribbs said. “But the longer it goes without solving a case the harder it is to solve.”
So what does it take to solve a case that seems to be leading investigators down a dead end road?
Special Agent Chris Hosey, a detective with the Georgia Bureau of Investigations who works cases for Liberty County, said many things come in to play.
“Sometimes you have to solve a case in order to solve a case,” he said. “Sometimes the perpetrator will do something or slip up and sometimes it involves people to decide to come forward who for some reason did not do so in the beginning.”
Because evidence fades and crime scenes get old, Hosey said people are the most important pieces to solving the puzzle.
“The other misunderstanding with a lot of investigations we work is that everybody believes that there should be some sort of physical evidence, and that comes from watching TV shows. There is not always an abundance of physical evidence, it depends on the scene and it depends on the crime,” he said. “It is very important that anybody, who has information on cases, to pass them on to law enforcement as soon as possible.”
Part of the problem, according to Cribbs, is more and more people don’t want to “snitch.”
Cribbs said the silence has a negative effect on solving cases.
“I can remember the days when your phone would just ring off the hooks from people wanting to give you information. That is not true anymore,” he said.
One thing Det. Stacy Carson, who is the GBI agent working the missing persons case of Deborah Gail Moody, said she wants the public to know is that just because a case has turned cold, it does not mean that investigators are not working it.
“We don’t ever close a missing person, a death investigation, or an unidentified case,” she said. “They always remain open until the cause of death is discovered or the person responsible is caught or comes forward.”
At a minimum of two times a year, Hosey said, detectives will sit down with the agents and look at the cold cases to see if there is anything that can be done on them.
“Sometimes they get put on the back burner, but they are still open,” he said. “It never goes away until it solved.”
 

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