Syracuse Police's Cold Case unit actively investigating 89 unsolved murders
This week, modern DNA technology gave Syracuse Police enough evidence to arrest Ron Meadow for the 1985 murder of his estranged wife - but the DNA came from materials collected in 1985 - long before DNA testing was possible. Detective John Nolan from the Syracuse Police cold case unit says that while advances in forensic science can bring new evidence to light, the work done by original investigators deserves a lot of the credit.
"Taking names and documenting and canvassing the neighborhood and securing evidence so it's really a team effort," said Nolan.
The Syracuse Police Department has four investigators dedicated to the cold case unit and working on 89 open homicides. The crime scenes are gone, witnesses are older - but these cases are still active.
"Maybe somebody was reluctant to speak about a particular person or come forward back then but today, that relationship may have gone badly and they're willing to speak to you again," said Detective Derek McGurk.
The cold case unit often brings back the original investigators who may have had a good idea who the killer was but didn't have modern forensic science to help prove it.
"Even if you're retired you're still a cop. you're always a cop and these guys remember these things. You can call them 30 years later and they'll be able to tell you what the weather was, what happened, what day it was," said Nolan
The cold case unit has a website listing open cases. Investigators are asking family members of the unsolved murder victims to provide pictures and details. McGurk says pictures could help someone remember key details or develop new leads.
"It's extremely gratifying to call a family and let them know you have some answers that maybe they haven't had for a lot of years."