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The American Cold Case Epidemic

How does it relate to public safety?

According to Hargrove (2018) founder of the non-profit Murder Accountability Project, there are more than 229,000 unsolved murders in the United States (para. 2). This means there are:

  • 229,000 victims without justice
  • 229,000 families without answers
  • 229,000+/- violent offenders walking free (some are already in prison for other murders)

And it doesn't stop there...that 229,000 doesn't decrease every year, it increases sometimes by as many as 5,000 unsolved homicides being added to the pile per calendar year. 

And what about the victims killed by violent crime scene stagers who set it up to make the it look like the victim died of a legitimate cause? No one knows how many staged homicides there are every year in the United States and it is great when crime scene stagers get caught, but like cold case violent offenders, when crime scene stagers don't get caught they too remain in society with the opportunity to reoffend...and some do. 

Not everywhere, not everyone, but there are law enforcement agencies who sometimes close these cases very, very soon after the death of the victim without having conducted Forensic Victimology in the First 48. Without victimology and a thorough death investigation, Medical Examiners often rule these cases suicide, accident, or natural based on the limited amount of information provided to them by the law enforcement agency. So if the victim is actually a murder victim, but his or her case is ruled suicide, accident, natural, or undetermined, by a Medical Examiner that victim is not being counted as an cold case homicide victim.

So, are there really only 229,000 victims of unsolved murders in the US...or could there be more? 

Our goal is evolutionary change through collaboration and partnership with citizens and political decision makers to design and pass legislation that restructures the management of cold case homicide victims' investigations, adds fiscal and tangible resources to law enforcement agencies, and gives families/survivors rights. The goal is intended to be positive for law enforcement agencies, positive for families seeking answers, and positive for victims who deserve justice.

The idea to form a collaborative effort  started with Sheryl McCollum from the Cold Case Investigative Research Institute and Laura Pettler from Laura Pettler & Associates Death Investigations discussing the years of conversations they'd had with countless victims' families and law enforcement professionals about the need for federal law for cold case homicide victims and families. We were thrilled to see that 300 people signed the Cold Case Accountability Act of 2020 petition on Change.org within the first 24 hours of kick off. 

Tremendous progress made in conversations at CrimeCon 2018 with victims, families, experts, celebrities, media professionals, and so many other great individuals inspired everyone to get the ball rolling towards positive change...so here we are! :) 


Hargrove, T. K. (2018). Why we exist? Retrieved from http://www.murderdata.org/p/about.htmlhttp://www.murderdata.org/p/about.html