More attention to be focused on solving cold cases - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

More attention to be focused on solving cold cases

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) - There are 140 unsolved murders in Hamilton County, and some families have gone more than 40 years without answers. But local law enforcement is hoping to soon change that by focusing more attention on cold cases.

Incoming District Attorney General Neal Pinkston plans to create a cold case unit within the DA's office in September. The goal, he said, is bringing together local, state and federal law enforcement to start reviewing all unsolved homicides in Hamilton County.

"If they can focus solely on that, and get help from other agencies, then it will do nothing but go towards time and effort to solve those," said Pinkston.

It's something that could bring answers for families like 69-year-old Mena Richie's, who've been waiting 25 years for justice.

"She would do anything for anybody. And why? That's my only question. Why?" asked Richie's daughter, Virginia.

"We need better effort. The problem is, in my opinion, we had too many other responsibilities at that time," said Chattanooga Police Sgt. Bill Phillips, who is currently the only person who makes up the department's cold case unit.

Phillips still gets called to other homicides in the city, and is looking forward to future and more focused efforts.

"The people investigating these cases will have much less to do, other than the cold case assignments," he said.

Aside from more eyes taking a look at cold cases, current technology is a plus, too. DNA testing didn't exist when many of these murders took place.

Even though leads dry up, Phillips said the passing time isn't always the enemy.

"Sometimes time will loosen some of this information, so sometimes it works out better for us," he said.

There is no statute of limitations, or time limit, on charging someone with first degree murder.

Often times, what seems like an unimportant detail could help solve a cold case. Anyone with information can call CrimeStoppers at 698-3333.
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