Gaston County Police Department launches new cold case unit

Past newspaper articles, crime scene photos, and hundreds of pages from old case files are tools records technician Charlie Craig has to work with.
The Gaston County Police Department is announcing the formation of a cold case unit designed to bring closure to violent crimes of the past.
Published: Sep. 8, 2022 at 10:37 PM EDT
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GASTON COUNTY, N.C. (WBTV) - Closing the books on unsolved homicides is an urgent undertaking for the Gaston County Police Department.

Captain Billy Downey heads up the department’s newly established cold case unit.

“We have 10 cases, I would say probably half of the cold cases that we know, or we have a pretty good idea who killed, who did the homicides, uh, but we can’t prove it,” Downey said.”So we’ve always had detectives assign cold cases. So every detective in the unit has either one or two cold cases and they work on them as they can.”

Past newspaper articles, crime scene photos, and hundreds of pages from old case files are tools records technician Charlie Craig has to work with.

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He said, “Back then they were very graphic with what they would say in the paper compared to now.”

His research is painstaking, meticulous, and can be tedious.

However, finding a needed needle in such a deep haystack brings its share of dead ends.

“So that’s what’s frustrating for detectives to find that people are no longer with us. They were at the scene and you know it you wish you could talk to them for five minutes,” Craig told WBTV.

Captain Downey understands the hurdles connected to the unsolved cases.

“Nobody’s alive anymore, “ he said. “The officers that took the case or the report or the witnesses, we can’t locate anybody ‘cause they’ve all passed on. So it’s very frustrating. It’s very challenging.”

Darrell Price heads up Charlotte Mecklenburg’s Cold case unit and takes pride in the unit’s success.

Price said, “Since 2003, we’ve solved over 60 homicide cases and reviewed over 250 cold cases that are in our queue to be investigated that have already been reviewed by our review team. And, we have email after email from family members, from victims, from people saying how much it meant to them that their case was never forgotten. "

Price understands how advances in crime-fighting technology have provided a big assist in solving cases.

“You can take a, a particle from the air essentially or from a piece of clothing and develop a DNA profile off of it to identify a perpetrator,” Price said.

Cold case units in many instances provide two purposes. They help police departments improve the clearance rate for homicide, and assist families in finding closure after long periods of waiting.

“These victims are still hurting. Even these cases are 10 20 in some cases, 50 years old. And it still hurts. So it’s good to know or let them reassure them that we’re trying to get them some closure,” Downey said.