Cybele K. Daley, Deputy Assistant Attorney General
Office of Justice Programs
Regional Basic Cold Case Training
Clearwater Beach, FL
June 19, 2007
Thank you, John Paul. I’m so glad to be here.
I want to thank John Paul and the very capable staff of our National Institute of Justice for organizing this
training, and for letting me be so involved in its planning. I also want to thank our partners at the National Forensic Science and Technology Center for their sponsorship. I especially want to thank the Center’s Executive Director, Kevin Lothridge. I also want to recognize David Epstein, chief scientist at the center. Thank you, Kevin and
David, and thanks to your staff.
Today’s training continues a series of basic regional cold case training sessions that we conducted last year, one of which was held just up the road in Tampa. We received very positive feedback from those sessions, and it was clear that the demand for this kind of information is great.
We’ve made these trainings as hands-on as possible. One of our objectives is to take actual cases, and use our time here to try to solve them. That approach seems to have worked very well, based on the feedback. It also reflects our desire in OJP to have an immediate and positive impact on the people who are most affected by unsolved cases – crime victims.
There’s no doubt that the work each of you does has major consequences for victims and their families. I am confident that, during your time here, you will get a sense of just how important your efforts are.
There’s a book out about the cold case squad in New York City called The Restless Sleep. If you haven’t read
it, I encourage you to do so. It gives an in-depth look not only at some of the cases the department has investigated, but also at the culture inside the unit.
It’s a pretty interesting account of the way things function in a cold case squad. As you know, like the cases themselves, what goes on behind the scenes is not always pretty. But you’re left with an appreciation for the challenges investigators have to deal with and an admiration for their determination and ingenuity.
I was struck by a line in the book that captures the impact of the work that all of you do. The author – her name is Stacy Horn – writes, quote: “For the families who figure the world isn’t going to give their
son, daughter, husband, or wife another thought, the cold case squad is their one shot to correct a terrible imbalance, however inadequately.” End quote.
I like her choice of words, especially the phrase “terrible imbalance.” It’s a much better way of putting it than a word like “closure,” which you often hear from well-meaning people who don’t understand what it means to be a victim.
As victims themselves will tell you, you can’t really bring closure to someone who has lost a loved one to a violent death. But you can give that person a measure of satisfaction that this terrible thing that has happened does indeed matter.
Cold case victims are sometimes referred to as forgotten victims. But no matter how long their cases go unsolved, their loved ones never forget.
DNA and forensic science are helping us to restore hope to victims and families. With advances in the use of DNA, and through the President’s DNA Initiative, we’ve crossed a major threshold in our ability to solve crimes and to bring answers.
The public and those of us in the justice system are placing greater faith in the reliability of DNA testing for identifying criminal suspects. In fact, one of our challenges is to educate criminal justice professionals, and the public at large, to see DNA not as the be-all and end-all, but as an important tool to help investigators and prosecutors in their work. It’s a complement to other resources, not a stand-alone solution.
In fact, what we rely on more than DNA are the instincts, the ingenuity, and the persistence of investigators and forensic specialists, not to mention a willingness to work together and to exhaust all avenues.
Virtually every law enforcement agency in the country has cases that could be solved through advances in DNA technology. But simply having the technology is not enough. Let me give you a case in point from right here in Florida.
Back in 1985 – more than 22 years ago – a 5-year-old girl named Kizzy Brooms was raped and murdered in West Palm Beach. It would be 11 years before the suspect was arrested. An initial DNA test was inconclusive and other evidence was contaminated, so he was released.
But a detective with the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office named Sergeant William Springer kept on the case, convinced of the man’s guilt. Eleven more years passed, and using funding from an NIJ grant, a new, more advanced DNA test was conducted, which revealed that Sergeant Springer was right.
Unfortunately for Kizzy’s family, her murderer died two years ago, and I know that tempers how they see the resolution of this case. But even so, her mother said that knowing the killer’s identity has given her some satisfaction.
Kizzy’s mother did not get to see her little girl grow up. She missed so many important milestones in the life of her child. You can imagine the sadness and the bitterness and the anger that she feels about all those lost moments. Yet in spite of all of that, out of a parent’s worst nightmare, she was able to find some measure of satisfaction.
That is why your work is so important: Because the things that many of us take for granted, matter a great deal to victims’ families. And that difference is made by your determination, foresight, patience, and ingenuity.
Many law enforcement agencies have established cold case squads or units to look at cases that have remained open for long periods. Many have been successful in using DNA to solve these cases.
In 2005, we awarded more than 14 million dollars to 38 state and local agencies to help them solve cold cases. These agencies are using funds to buy equipment, enhance software applications, hire staff, and improve storage capability, among other things. The goal of the program is to help these agencies expand their capacity to test DNA evidence from violent crime cold cases.
The cold case program is part of President Bush’s DNA initiative. Under the initiative, the President has committed one billion dollars over five years to enhancing the use of DNA technology. NIJ is the primary player in this effort.
All told, NIJ has awarded more than 300 million dollars under the initiative.
These funds have gone toward eliminating case backlogs. They’ve also gone toward lab enhancements, research and development, finding missing persons, and, of course, helping to solve cold cases.
A major element of the President’s initiative is training. We offer both classroom and online training to law enforcement officers and investigators,
prosecutors, medical professionals, and forensic scientists. And I’ll be heading over to Indian Rocks Beach tomorrow to speak at our first advanced cold case training.
I can’t emphasize enough the importance of the training component. Much of the information imparted by the trainings comes from experienced law enforcement professionals, so it’s practical, it’s timely, and it’s field-tested.
It also is a means to spread the news about promising practices and innovations. That’s a big reason we’re here today. I encourage you to take advantage of your time here to talk to your counterparts in other departments and in other parts of the country.
Your work, by definition, involves a very clinical approach to human tragedy. But it has a very personal impact on victims and their families.
You’re not just solving an old rape or murder case, you’re bringing answers to victims and families whose lives have been thwarted by uncertainty.
I am grateful for your work on behalf of those families, and for your single-minded commitment to justice.
Before we move into our training, I want to show you a video that exemplifies the importance of your work to victims’ families.
Each year, there are more than 58,000 non-family abductions of children. When we learn of an abduction, we invariably think of the trauma to the parents and the abducted child. But often there are other young victims – the sisters and brothers of those who have been abducted.
To help these often-overlooked victims cope, the Department of Justice created “What About Me?”, a guide
in which brothers and sisters of abducted children share their insights to help others who are going through the same thing that they have gone through.
I would like to share a brief clip from the video that accompanies the guide.