1st Edition

Cold Case Research Resources for Unidentified, Missing, and Cold Homicide Cases

By Silvia Pettem Copyright 2013
    333 Pages
    by CRC Press

    333 Pages 71 B/W Illustrations
    by CRC Press

    Cases in which all investigative leads appear to be exhausted are frustrating for both investigators and victims’ families. Cold cases can range from those only a few months old to others that go back for decades. Presenting profiles and actual case histories, Cold Case Research: Resources for Unidentified, Missing and Cold Homicide Cases illustrates how investigators can successfully apply resources that will enable them to reopen and solve cases gathering dust in the file room.

    Today’s investigators have found that, to solve cold cases, they need to be internet savvy and make the best use of the rapidly changing methodologies of the twenty-first century, but they also have to be time travelers and open the door to the past. This volume weaves together the nearly forgotten skill sets of traditional historical researchers with the latest online tools, including TLO, a premier investigative system; and NamUs, the revolutionary database for missing persons and unidentified remains. Along with practical applications, Cold Case Research gives investigators the tools they need to save time and money and to jump-start their cold cases, while keeping others from going cold in the future.

    Topics discussed include:

    • Implementing cold case units

    • People searches and working with databases

    • Overlooked DNA in PKU cards

    • The plight of the missing and unknown

    • Applying historical and geographical context

    • Online and off-line newspaper research

    • Public and published records

    • The use of volunteers

    • Contact with co-victims

    • Cold-case review teams and information-sharing resources

    • Taking advantage of the media

    Using a thinking-outside-the-box approach, this volume helps fill major gaps in traditional cold case investigation training and techniques, enabling investigators to confidently reopen and crack the mystery of cases long thought unsolvable.


    Silvia Pettem was quoted in a January 29, 2012 article on missing persons in the Colorado Springs Gazette.

    Tools and Techniques. Challenges and Checklist. Agency Organization: Cold Case Units. TLO: The Latest Online Investigative System. Additional Options for People Searches. Dealing with Databases. Missing, Murdered, and Unidentified. NamUs: Connecting the Missing and Unidentified. Entering and Searching in the NamUs System. PKU Cards Retain Overlooked DNA. The Plight of the Missing and Unknown. Resources for Expanded Research. Historical and Geographical Context. Newspaper Research: Online and Off. Published and Public Records. Volunteers: How They Can Help. Contact with Co-Victims. Review Teams and the Media. Cold Case Review Teams and Information-Sharing Resources. Taking Advantage of the Media. Conclusion. Selected References. Index.


    Silvia Pettem is a longtime historical researcher, newspaper columnist, and author of more than a dozen books. After decades of work for individuals, businesses, and governments, her life took a new turn in 1996, when she stumbled upon the gravestone of a Jane Doe, a murder victim from 1954. A few years later, Pettem applied her research skills to both old-fashioned detective work and the power of the Internet by entering into a successful partnership with her local sheriff and forensic experts of the Vidocq Society to determine the young woman’s identity. Pettem chronicled their work in Someone’s Daughter: In Search of Justice for Jane Doe.

    In 2008, the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office gave Pettem a Sheriff’s Commendation Award for doing the "lion’s share of the research" on the Jane Doe case. Two years later, the Vidocq Society presented her with its Medal of Honor.

    While continuing to volunteer for the Sheriff’s Office, Pettem is now an associate member of the Vidocq Society, a volunteer in the detectives section of the Boulder Police Department, a NamUs Academy graduate, and a NamUs instructor in classes sponsored by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, expanding her expertise and working with colleagues all over the country.