A ‘Cold Case Crisis’ In Policing Is Letting Killers Off The Hook

Homicide clearance rates are down in major Texas cities. Are killers falling through the cracks?

By Wells DunbarFebruary 11, 2021 7:04 am

Police violence against minorities has sparked intense debate over public safety budgets. But how police employ existing resources, specifically when it comes to murder investigations, is the subject of a new report in the Texas Observer by investigative journalist Lise Olsen.

Her report, “Undetected,” tells the story of a serial killer who preyed on retirees in Dallas. By the time police realized the deceased were the victims of crime, and not dead from natural causes, nine people had died in one North Texas senior apartment complex. Several other victims were linked to the same killer.

It’s an example of the “cold case crisis” afflicting homicide departments across Texas, Olsen says. “Essentially they created their own problem in this case because they had allowed these bodies to be cremated; they hadn’t collected evidence at all of these scenes.”

While Olsen credits police for ultimately going back for going back “and collecting information that recreated the path of the killer,” she notes that no detective was initially allowed to work on the investigation full time. “Nationwide, that’s a problem; cold cases just don’t get that much attention.”

Listen to our interview with Olsen in the audio player above, and read “Undetected” on the Texas Observer website.

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