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Harris County Sheriff’s Office: Solving Cold Cases

rotary cold casesNORTH SHORE – Rotarians heard from Harris County Investigator Bobby Minchew on how his department pursues so-called “cold cases.”

Minchew is one of two officers assigned to his department, which was restarted in 2009 by Sheriff Garcia. It was initially constituted in 1998. They work with the three homicide squads, following up on cases that have had no leads for over two years. Then they are turned over to he and his partner Eric Clagg, for another look with a fresh perspective.

He said that there are currently over 540 open cases in their cold case files, some of them dating back to the 1960’s and 1970’s. When an old case is referred to them, they review the file and make a decision whether to pursue it farther. However, even if they don’t work the case, it remains open.

Changes in the way the Sheriff ’s office investigates a case have helped them, he said. In the 90’s DNA became a useful tool, especially on older cases where it wasn’t used before. Also, in 2007 a new electronic date base was initiated, making it easier to investigate the available information.
Minchew’s CCC (cold case unit) studies DNA in a data base known as CODIS, firearms evidence files, with a national registry known as IBIS, and fingerprints, known as AFIS.

The work of his unit has resulted in clearing 22 murders, and charging 25 suspects.

When they decide to investigate a case, it is usually because of new tips, information from family or friends, or DNA database matches.

After they develop facts and put them into a presentation to the District Attorney, the DA makes a determination on whether to accept a case for prosecution. Minchew says their success rate has been very high, over 90%.

One of their recent cases just now going to trial is Channelview serial killer, Hobbs.