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Unsolved murders have occurred all over the world. Steeped in intrigue, people have wondered and speculated about crimes like those of Jack the Ripper for over a hundred and fifty years or more. There are many that still remain unsolved across the United States.
Even when the most advanced technology has been used in an attempt to solve crimes that have been on the books for several years, they still remain a mystery. The five following cases, some dating back several decades, are still being investigated by law enforcement agencies, crime buffs, and citizens local to each case who want to find answers.
Crime Across the United States
When a crime occurs, the clock starts ticking away the minutes. The longer it takes to solve a crime, the more likely it will become a cold case. After the first 48 hours, the odds of an unsolved homicide becoming a cold case increases exponentially. Neighborhood watch programs and Crime Stoppers can be vital in solving many of these crimes, including those involving a missing person.
Across the United States, unsolved crimes from years ago are constantly being reopened so that the latest technology can be put to use to try and find answers that may have been missed before. Missing person cases and homicide cases where the victim was never found are often looked at first. DNA evidence is one of the most powerful tools law enforcement agencies have at their disposal.
The Black Dahlia
In 1946, Elizabeth Short was an aspiring actress living in Los Angeles. Her naked and severely mutilated body was discovered on January 15, 1947, in a residential area. Her body had been cut in half at the midsection and was actually mistaken for a mannequin. It was apparent that the location of the body was a dump site and not where the actual murder occurred, due to the lack of physical evidence found at the scene.
Nicknamed the Black Dahlia, Short was only 22 years old at the time of her death. Immediately, there was speculation about her death and investigators heard several stories about her wild ways and party girl habits. Before long, the public was more intrigued by her exploits than any progress police had made toward solving the case. Buzz within the local community revolved around the possibility that the California police knew the killer and were conspiring to cover up his involvement.
America’s Unknown Child
True crime buffs have worked for years to uncover the identity of a small boy found in a furniture box near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Although his body had been found a few days prior by a local trapper, it wasn’t reported to the police until February 25th, 1957. While locals referred to the child as “our boy”, he has become known across the country as America’s Unknown Child. Even today, people continue to try and find answers so this 65-year-old homicide can be solved.
Other than a few pieces of clothing, Pennsylvania police had little to go on. There was no crime scene to be found, other than the dump site. The boy was estimated to be between three and seven years old. His body had multiple scars, many from possible medical treatments. It was thought that he was also a victim of child abuse. He was malnourished and covered in bruises. Over the years, many people have tried to find his true identity, but nothing has ever turned up. He is buried in a simple grave in Ivy Hill Cemetery in Cedarbrook, Philadelphia. His grave was paid for by the detectives who investigated his homicide case.
JonBenet Ramsey was a contestant in many youth beauty pageants. On December 26, 1996, JonBenet’s body was discovered in the basement of her family’s Boulder, Colorado home. Before her body was found, her mother, Patsy Ramsey, supposedly found a ransom note on one of the staircases in their home. Within a few hours of her mother finding the note, her father found her body behind an appliance in the basement.
Even though over 1,500 items were introduced into evidence and close to a thousand DNA samples were analyzed, the case is still one of the most famous unsolved homicides in the country. DNA technology was used to rule out multiple subjects, but could not help detectives identify the little girl’s killer. It is speculated that Patsy Ramsey may have harmed her daughter, but nothing has ever been found to support those allegations.
The Delphi, Indiana Murders
Libby (Liberty) German and Abby (Abigail) Williams were murdered on February 13, 2017, in Delphi, Indiana. Delphi is a small town in central Indiana where the crime rate is incredibly low. The Indiana State Police had few leads to go on other than a cellphone recording made by one of the girls where a man could be heard saying “down the hill”. The recording was made near where the girls’ bodies were found the following day. The girl was also able to take a blurry photograph of the subject before she was killed.
Many people have speculated about the identity of the killer. Some believe he may be a drifter, while others believe him to be a dangerous serial killer. This continues to be one of the most mysterious cases in the Midwest. With all of today’s advancements in technology, police officers are no closer to solving the crime than they were the day it occurred. Although the girls’ cellphones offered valuable clues, none were substantial enough to provide a solid lead that would lead the police to the killer.
The Zodiac Killer is one of the most prolific unsolved cases in the San Francisco Bay area. Victims received multiple gunshot wounds and were left for dead. At least two of the victims survived the attacks. It was determined that the Zodiac killed five, even though he claimed to have killed up to 37 people. During the 60s and 70s, California was dealing with multiple serial killers, including the Golden State Killer and the Hillside Strangler.
To set himself apart from the Golden State Killer in Sacramento and the Hillside Strangler in Los Angeles, the Zodiac Killer gave himself the Zodiac. He sent heavily encrypted letters to law enforcement agencies, taunting them with information about who he was. After almost 50 years, a group of detectives and other investigators known as the Case Breakers broke the code he had devised and identified him as Gary Francis Poste.
The Introduction of DNA
With the introduction of DNA testing, many old, cold case files have been reopened in an attempt to uncover potential leads that may have not been followed because DNA testing at the time was not as efficient as it is today. In the past, blood samples were primarily collected in order to obtain a blood type. Now, that same evidence is able to provide answers as to who harmed a victim.
Cold case files that contain cigarette butts, fingernail clippings, or semen stains can now be reopened and the samples tested for DNA. A new investigative tool uses reverse DNA testing. This is where they take DNA samples from a crime kit and compare the DNA to samples collected in a national database. When a match is found, the person will be, in some way, related to the killer or defendant. By reversing the process, investigators can track down their suspects by following their genealogy.
Advancements in Technology
Testing DNA evidence is one of many advancements in technology that can be used to shed new light on cold homicide cases. There are thousands of unsolved crimes across the United States that could potentially be solved through the use of DNA, genealogical testing, and digital forensics. While much of the physical evidence in older cases may be lost or degraded, more recent cases may be able to be solved if the right type of science is applied.
Special Cold Case Groups
In the case of the Zodiac Killer, a group of individuals that included police officers and other investigators called the Case Breakers pooled all of their talents to solve the 53-year-old case. Kelly Siegler, a former prosecuting attorney from Texas, has come together with several of her friends and is working to solve cold cases across the country. They use all of the latest tools in addition to talking to individuals who are named in the case files. Many of the cases they reopen are eventually solved.
Law enforcement officers in every state, including South Dakota, West Virginia, New York, New Hampshire, as well as others, have several John Doe cases they must deal with every year. By gathering as much personal information and DNA evidence as possible, they can hopefully prevent a case from going cold. The more evidence they can find, the more likely it is that a case will be solved. There will always be a few, however, that will end up being unsolved until the right bit of evidence is uncovered.