DA's new cold case unit reviewing unsolved homicides in Hamilton - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

DA's new cold case unit reviewing unsolved homicides in Hamilton County

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) - New efforts are under way to solve cold case murders in Hamilton County. District Attorney General Neal Pinkston's new cold case unit is starting work this week.

Some families of unsolved murder victims have been waiting decades for answers, while knowing their loved one's killer could still be out there. They say it's easy to feel forgotten, but this new cold case unit is giving them hope.

"It's hard when you don't know," said Janice Wellington. And not knowing who killed her brother has meant 18 years of nearly sleepless nights.

Lester Wellington's name is one of about 120 on the list of cold case homicides in Hamilton County.

"Our mother Mena Richie was murdered 25 years ago," said Virginia James.

"We felt forgotten for the last 25 years," said Richie's other daughter, Ann Headley.

But now several investigators will be looking at old unsolved murder cases. Pinkston announced his new cold case unit on Tuesday.

"We saw an ability to make progress on those, and hopefully bring at some point, someday, justice -- not only for the family members, but also those who perpetrated these crimes," he said.

Mike Mathis will lead the unit. He's a retired 25-year homicide detective with Chattanooga Police. In recent years, CPD's cold case unit shrunk to just one person.

"We had several of us at one time working, and we made a lot of progress. But time and other things changed, and that unit got dwindled down," said Mathis.

Local, state and federal law enforcement agencies are teaming up to review cases as old as the mid-1970s.

"We never forget about those. We all think, 'Did we turn over every stone? Did we try everything we could?" said Sheriff Jim Hammond.

"We may not be able to solve all these cases. We don't even come in with those ideas," Pinkston said.

But in clearing one case -- it brings long-awaited justice to one person and one family.

"We've all lost a loved one, and I lost a son that was very close to my heart," said Vanessa Buckner, who is waiting on justice for her son. Quincy Bell was murdered two years ago.

"It wouldn't bring my son back. But it would really help me out so I can get some peace," she said.

And after 18 years of feeling forgotten, Wellington now has a renewed sense of hope.

"I guess God does answer prayers," Wellington said. "Because now we're getting some help."

Anyone with information on a cold case can call CrimeStoppers at (423) 698-3333.
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