CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -
"New information has come forward, new leads have led us, encourage us," says Hamilton County District Attorney Neal Pinkston as he refers to is his 3 month old cold case unit, which is focused on solving the mystery surrounding the January 9th, 1997 slayings of Sean and Donnie Goetcheus, along with some 110 other unsolved local murders.
"An old case, when you re-open it, is new again," says retired Chattanooga Police Detective Mike Mathis on the Goetcheus double murder and others the cold case task force is trying to crack.
"At this point in our careers, to be able to do with what we're doing today is pretty remarkable," says Chattanooga Police Sergeant Bill Phillips, who like Mathis, worked the Goetcheus murders soon after the bodies were discovered at the Rosemont Drive crime scene.
Both Phillips and Mathis say they like the collaborative effort the cold case unit brings to an investigation, allowing detectives the painstaking time it takes to build a case worth prosecuting.
"The resources are dedicated out of this office , we have other people assigned here from other agencies," says Mathis who notes every law enforcement agency in the Hamilton County as well as the TBI & FBI contacts the cold case unit utilizes.
All with one unwavering purpose, justice for both the perpetrator and the families of murder victims .
"We want to get closure, they want closure, the department also wants closure on these cases," says Hamilton County Sheriff's Detective Mark Miller.
"We obviously can't work all of them at the same time, but we're working several at once," assures Pinkston of the backlog of unsolved cases currently being reviewed.
Pinkston adds the cases deemed most plausible to solve and ultimately prosecute, rise to the top of their list.
Mathis says despite the passage of time, some cases do find new life as witnesses may be more forthcoming with crucial information.
"People that were reluctant to talk because of their affiliation, to this particular case 18 years ago, they're much more mature maybe, older ,living a different life and now a little more willing to come forward then they did back them". says Mathis.
"Often times, they know facts that they think are insignificant, but actually if they give them to us with other stuff that we know, it helps complete the puzzle," says Pinkston.
Case in point, the murder trial set to begin next month for Adolphus Hollingshead, who was charged with killing his wife, some 16 years after the crime.
"It's about the victims and their families, they deserve to know who and why," says Mathis.
While 113 unsolved murder cases since the late 1970's may sound considerable for a community of Chattanooga's size, Sergeant Phillips notes the local murder arrest clearance rate hovers around 90%, far higher than the national average of the low to mid 60%.
If you have any information on the Goetcheus slayings or any of the 100+ unsolved murders, you're asked to call the Hamilton County Cold Case Unit at 423-209 7470 or you can e-mail the unit at firstname.lastname@example.org.