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Regional police agencies unite to solve old crimes


Garthia Elena Burnett





Red and white signs still are peppered throughout the city of Columbus, displaying the faces of senior citizens killed in the late ''90s: 


  • n Mack Fowler: Murdered July, 8, 1996 


    n George Wilbanks: Murdered November, 2, 1997 


    n Robert Hannah: Murdered October 13, 1998 


    n Betty Everett: Murdered November 17, 1998 


    n Louise Randall: Murdered October 20, 1998



And Columbus'' unsolved murders are just a few of the cases local law enforcement agencies hope to solve with a regional crime scene investigation and cold case unit. 


The agencies are hoping to pool their resources and form the Golden Triangle Task Force, charged with solving cold cases and high-profile crimes. And step one is applying for a $430,000 grant to fund the project. 


Representatives from Golden Triangle sheriff''s and police departments met Thursday at the Columbus Police Department to iron out details of the grant application. 


"I think it''s two-fold," Columbus Police Chief Joseph St. John said of the task force''s mission, one of which is to reopen active investigation into cold cases. 


Its other portion of its mission is "so that when we have a major crime occur in the area, we can have an (immediate and intense) crime scene response," St. John said. 


The Clay County Sheriff''s Office is taking the lead in applying for the Justice Assistance Grant through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Most of the $399,000 grant would go toward salaries and benefits of the staff, CCSO Investigator Bobby Grimes said. 


One of task force members will be an attorney in District Attorney Forrest Allgood''s office. The remainder of the grant funds will be applied toward equipment such as laptops, computers, digital cameras and recorders. 


Each law enforcement agency also is asked to provide an investigator for intense training to serve on the task force. Another officer from each agency will train for one week out of the month for a year on crime scene investigation with CPD Forensic Director Austin Shepherd. 


Shepherd''s goal is International Association for Identification certification for the officers. IAI is the oldest and largest forensic science association. 


To gain IAI certification, investigators must work a mock crime scene and answer a 500-question test prepared by the FBI. 


Grimes encourages fellow lawmen to consider those with experience and knack for the task force. 


"It''s not set up to be an overall investigative unit," he said. "It''s meant to be focused on specific crimes. ... They are going to be major crimes and old cases ..." 


Grimes also is asking each Golden Triangle law enforcement agency to contribute $25,000 a year to the program, which will fund the task force once the two-year term of the grant ends. 


Sheriffs and police chiefs were asked to present the proposal to their respective city and county leaders for approval. The law enforcement heads will meet again on April 15 to give final approval to an interlocal agreement.




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Reader Comments

Article Comment Buddie commented at 4/9/2010 5:15:00 PM:

Will they put up signs for Kaila Morris?


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