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BRINGING ATTENTION TO YOUR UNSOLVED MURDER

 SERIES~BRINGING ATTENTION TO UNSOLVED MURDERS

I’ve decided to do a series on some things a person can do to bring attention to a loved one’s unsolved murder. This series will be based on personal experience and trial and error from over forty years of dealing with law enforcement and the media. People from various states have contacted me feeling helpless. They want to do something, anything that might bring attention to their unsolved murder. I sympathize with them.

I understand the lack of justice. There’s something very wrong with a murderer enjoying freedom while a loved one is in the grave. I’ve cried with them and expressed sorrow for their pain. I share with them what I’ve learned over the years. The knowledge I give them won’t solve their cold case. What it will do is make them feel like they have a voice. When our conversation ends I hope they always know that I care.

It’s been over forty years since Kathy was murdered in New Hampshire.  The work done on a case that old is minimal unless new leads are presented.  When a Cold Case Unit is in place, cold cases are reopened according to solvability.  Units take into consideration how old the case is, what evidence is still available, what witnesses are alive, if the prime suspect is still alive, and the possibility of DNA.  These are some of the particulars considered.

Over the years my family and I have experienced numerous disappointments in Kathy’s investigation.  Even with these frustrations we always wanted law enforcement to pursue any leads.  One of the heartbreaking aspects to a murder would be knowing who the murderer is but an arrest cannot be made because of a lack of physical evidence.  Law enforcement feels the same way; it’s frustrating for them.

Recently someone contacted me with credible information on Kathy’s murder.  I’ve learned over the years to be too hopeful but it’s not easy.  This information was trustworthy enough for the Cold Case Unit to investigate.  They had to wait weeks before they could.  Weeks seem like months when a family is waiting for news.  The information didn’t pan out as I’d hoped but I’m still grateful to the person that came forward.  I would never want anyone to think that it’s not worth the effort to come forward with information.  You never know and I’d rather have a person try than do nothing at all.

It’s not easy facing disappointment but I’d rather try than do nothing at all.  I know Kathy’s files sit in storage with no one planning on looking at them any time soon or ever again.  What I do is for her and only for her. 

  

1.  DON’T BURN YOUR BRIDGES

According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary one definition to the word bridge is, “A time, place, or means of connection or transition.” When dealing with others including law enforcement and the media remember these connections are valuable. Interaction with law enforcement and the media will be necessary to bring attention to an unsolved murder. Your goal is to bring attention to a homicide that has possibly been sitting around for decades.

In an unsolved murder years have gone by without results. In some cases a multitude of investigators have looked at the files and reviewed evidence. An investigator that might have made mistakes on a case years ago no longer works it, is employed in another state, or passed away. Don’t blame all law enforcement for the mistakes made years ago. If you want to be involved in bringing attention to your unsolved murder make connections. Make connections with law enforcement, victim’s advocates, the media, and government officials. These connections will be valuable to you now and in the future.

  

2.  FIND YOUR ADVOCATES

Since Kathy’s murder in 1971, I’ve met people who display intense passion for the work they do. Whether it’s in law enforcement, the media, or a victim’s advocate. They will go above and beyond what is required of them in their job. Because of this, their tenacity, and dedication they are candidates for the kind of advocate you need. I have not encountered many but when I have they definitely stand out in a crowd.

Your advocate will be willing to listen, sympathize, and understand the need for justice for the victim and the family. I’ve had to accept that some do not care. There are some that care but do nothing about it. Then there are those that have a hunting instinct, a bulldog personality, and giving up is not in their vocabulary. That my friend is your advocate!

  

3.  WORKING WITH LAW ENFORCEMENT

In any profession there are individuals that do their job well and those that don’t. Law enforcement is not exempt. Frustration is unavoidable when seeking attention for a cold case. Keeping this in mind will help you to stay focused. Agents are pulled in a hundred different directions. They are overworked and underpaid. If there is ever a time that citizens need to get involved it’s now.

I’ve acquired valuable tips and connections because someone was willing to speak with me before speaking with law enforcement. Unless I know the individual well my contacts are always by phone, email, or text. Respect is required if you want a relationship with those working on your cold case. Investigating a homicide is gruesome, the sights and smells indescribable. Investigators are human and humans make mistakes.

I do not tolerate sloppiness in an investigation but I do understand human error. Look for your advocate in law enforcement. A good detective will go above and beyond what is required of them to see your cold case solved. Their instincts are similar to a hunter looking for his/her prey, not easily discouraged. They will have an open mind and be willing to talk with you. Years later this detective will still show an interest in the case being solved. Remember, don’t burn your bridges, find your advocates, and work with law enforcement.

  

4.  THE MEDIA IS A VALUABLE TOOL

In the early years of Kathy’s murder investigation I disliked the media. They were intrusive and insensitive to the pain my family was going through. I looked at them as the enemy but years later understood how important they are in cold cases. Search for your advocate in the media. Find someone that’s willing to do a story on your cold case. Getting national attention is difficult but local publications and news stations are willing to run stories about their community.

You will need persistence and thick skin. Remember, not everyone cares. When you find the person willing to do a story on your cold case they will be your connection for future stories. When reporters move on to other publications this process will have to be repeated. Use anniversary dates of the murder to approach the media. “It’s been ten years since my sister was murdered and it’s still not solved. Would you willing to do a story? I’m hoping it will bring new leads in.”

Reaching the public through the media often creates new leads and anonymous tips. Individuals have come forward decades later because they no longer live in fear. Some leads will be credible and some will not. The key is you’ve created activity on a case that hasn’t seen any for years. It’s important to make connections with law enforcement and the media. Using social media to bring attention to your cold case can produce promising results. Always keep the lines of communication open and don’t burn your bridges along the way!

  

5.  VICTIM’S ADVOCATES ARE MEDIATORS

My family didn’t have the benefits of a victim’s advocate in 1971 or 1983. In 2004 when Kathy’s case was reactivated an advocate was assigned to us. At this point we didn’t know what to do with an advocate and her counsel was never used. Since then, I’ve learned how valuable an advocate’s services are. I encourage all victims to tap into the benefits they offer.

A victim’s advocate lends support in various ways to families facing the trauma of a homicide. Often, they are the individuals that notify a family of a murder and provide immediate crisis intervention. They offer support for families and witnesses to the crime. Advocates arrange cleanups of a crime scene so a family can reenter their home. They can explain an autopsy and assist in funeral arrangements. Each person within the family requires individual needs and an advocate helps to provide those personal requests.

Advocates explain the criminal justice system and give updates on a case. They notify families when graphic material will be presented. Victims can make a decision on whether they wish to attend that day. Intervention is important and advocates provide it in areas of the workplace, school, landlords, and creditors. They help to get property returned to the victim. Some property may be sentimental and needed to console a victim.

If a criminal is up for parole an advocate can notify the family. They supply information on the process of a parole hearing and the rights a victim has to attend and have a voice. An advocate can be a mediator between the victim and the investigators. A victim’s concerns can be presented to them and they can communicate those concerns. I have always gone directly to investigators but some may not feel comfortable doing that. Take advantage of any assistance offered to you as a victim. I was barely fifteen when Kathy was murdered in 1971.

I needed an advocate!

  

6. THE IMPORTANCE OF COLD CASE UNITS

 Before I discuss how important Cold Case Units are I want to express how important local and state law enforcements are to cold cases. Their initial investigation is crucial to a murder being solved. If the investigation was thorough and leads were followed diligently then a Cold Case Unit’s task will be more profitable years later.

In Kathy’s investigation there were good officers that strived to bring justice to a little girl who deserved it. But there were also numerous mistakes made and corruption within law enforcement that hindered an arrest to made in 1971. Homicide Units and local law enforcement put endless hours into solving a murder. But there comes a time when a case becomes stale without any new leads. The consistency on which it was worked on is no longer there.

How much time goes by before a case is considered cold? Some may think it’s five, ten, or fifteen years. In reality it could be cold within two years. The urgency to solve it is no longer there. Officers are called into the field to work on current cases. With other agencies working on current murders, the unsolved lingers in limbo. A case that’s been inactive for a decade could possibly be solved if a team was to reactivate it and it was worked on consistently.

For families still waiting for an arrest of the person/persons who murdered their loved one the value of a Cold Case Unit is great. I’m not sure we can put a monetary value on an agency that distributes hope to each of us, some waiting more than forty years. What is hope? The dictionary defines the phrase hope against hope. “To continue to hope, although the outlook does not warrant it.” This is the kind of hope we’ve endured for years before the Cold Case Unit was established in New Hampshire. The hope that lingers in the back of your mind that one day someone will be arrested for the murder he or she committing against the one you love.

Another definition for hope, “A feeling of desire for something and confidence in the possibility of its fulfillment.” This is the hope the New Hampshire Cold Case Unit gives us now. Every time we hear an arrest has been made in a cold case our hope is strengthened. Some may question the value of the Cold Case Unit. The value has already been proven.

What is the price you would pay for life, your life? If a murderer walks, he walks amongst us all. Some may say, “Why doesn’t the Homicide Unit work on these cases?” When do they have time? How many homicides do you think are committed each year in the United States? Never mind the United States, what about in New Hampshire? When a murderer is not arrested he is free to murder again in any state. One of them could be your next-door neighbor?

What kind of crime does a murderer commit once he’s killed someone? Any kind of crime they want because once they’ve murdered there isn’t anything they won’t do. This is why Cold Case Units are valuable and should be established in every state. Victims and their families deserve justice. Our future deserves protection from these killers. 

 

7.   CONNECTIONS! CONNECTIONS! CONNECTIONS!

Connections are important if you want to bring attention to unsolved murders.   Make connections with law enforcement, the media, victim’s advocate groups, and your State Representatives.  Don’t underestimate the significance of your Representatives.   I’ve learned over the years that politics play a part in almost everything, even unsolved murders.  To change laws, create laws, and push for attention on unsolved murders your Representative’s views matter.  Ask for a business card and file it.  If an individual can’t help you now they may be able to in the future. 

Think of these connections as doors that open opportunity.  One door opens, which opens another door that opens additional doors.  Opening the first door is usually the hardest

You will need perseverance.  You cannot be easily offended.  Putting yourself out there means vulnerability.  Though you may feel defeated at times don’t give up.  Keep looking for those individuals that care about justice for the victims of unsolved murders.  I promise you, they are out there.  I’ve had the privilege of knowing many on fire for justice!

  

8.  BE PREPARED FOR DISSAPOINTMENT

It’s been over forty years since Kathy was murdered in New Hampshire.  The work done on a case that old is minimal unless new leads are presented.  When a Cold Case Unit is in place, cold cases are reopened according to solvability.  Units take into consideration how old the case is, what evidence is still available, what witnesses are alive, if the prime suspect is still alive, and the possibility of DNA.  These are some of the particulars considered.

Over the years my family and I have experienced numerous disappointments in Kathy’s investigation.  Even with these frustrations we always wanted law enforcement to pursue any leads.  One of the heartbreaking aspects to a murder is knowing who the murderer is but an arrest cannot be made because of a lack of physical evidence.  Law enforcement feels the same way; it’s frustrating for them.

Recently someone contacted me with credible information on Kathy’s murder.  I’ve learned over the years to be too hopeful but it’s not easy.  This information was trustworthy enough for the Cold Case Unit to investigate.  They had to wait weeks before they could.  Weeks seem like months when a family is waiting for news.  The information didn’t pan out as I’d hoped but I’m still grateful to the person that came forward.  I would never want anyone to think that it’s not worth the effort to come forward with information.  You never know and I’d rather have a person try than do nothing at all.

Here is a summary of  “BRINGING ATTENTION TO UNSOLVED MURDERS.”  I hope it helps someone somewhere.  Each person must decide if and when they are ready to bring attention to their unsolved murder.  For me it took decades.  Time does not change the fact there are days I still grieve for Kathy.  I miss her, I always will.

 

  1.     Don’t burn your bridges
  2.     Find your advocates
  3.     Working with law enforcement
  4.     The media is a valuable tool
  5.     Victim’s advocates are mediators
  6.     Cold Case Units are important
  7.     Connections! Connections! Connections!
  8.     Be prepared for disappointments 

 

This quote from Theodore Roosevelt sums it up. 

“Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure… than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.

2 thoughts on “BRINGING ATTENTION TO YOUR UNSOLVED MURDER”

  1. Kathy, this is such excellent information. You are sharing your tragedy and your wisdom that has come from years of experience. And from your heart. Thanks to your advocacy efforts, I attended the hearing and I even gave testimony to support continued funding of the Cold Case unit in New Hampshire this past year. I am thankful that I do not have a loved one who has been murdered but I gave testimony to the committee about our adopted son, whose mother was murdered. She was all he had and she was cruelly taken away when he was a teen. He is a young adult now and still grieves his mother’s murder every day. I knew her and she did not deserve to die the way she did. No one has been charged with her murder. I was honored when I was recently the first person that he called, to tell that he was becoming a Dad, but my heart also hurt for him because his mother is not here to be a grandmother and share in his joy. I also testified about my first time ever being on jury duty was a murder case. The photos presented were so graphic, and I will never forget the sounds of anguish that were uttered by the victim’s family members in the courtroom that day. Enough said my me, for now. When I went before the Committee it took courage to speak up but murder victims need us all to speak up on their behalf. Thank you for all you do and keep up the good fight, always!

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    1. Carolee,
      I want to thank-you for leaving this comment. It’s important that we support each other in the effort of seeing more progress in solving cold cases. Whether we personally have a loved one that’s been murder or not it still (as you stated) leaves a mark on our society. Your point on the effects of being a jury for a murder trial proves how murder reaches its ugliness even beyond the immediate family. That’s why I admire the men and women that work on homicides. What they see, smell, hear and work with is gruesome. I couldn’t do it.

      Thank you for fighting for the NH Cold Case Unit. Their first trial is currently going on. I pray that their and other law enforcement persistence and tedious work pays off. Anyone that does not see the Unit’s value is ignorant in what it takes to solve a cold case. They continue to work on cases and hopefully another arrest will be made soon.

      I reposted the series I did because I continue to have individuals around the US contact me and ask what they can do to create interests in their unsolved murder. It’s also one of the reasons I created the Victims of Violent Crimes Bracelet.

      This past week in Arizona a fourteen year old girl named Claudia Ann Lucero was found in a dumpster. She had been murdered. I pray that an arrest is quickly made. Could this murderer have murdered before? It could be this was not the first time. That’s why it is important to solve cold cases.

      Thank you for your support,
      Karen

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