North Las Vegas Police made a break in a 30-year-old case this week after detectives pieced together jailhouse letters.
Advances in technology over the last few decades continue helping departments like Metro Police solve crimes.
When it comes to solving crimes, a Las Vegas Metropolitan Police cold case investigator Terri Miller says, “Any possible lead is something that you jump on.”
“A lot of where we start on these cases are just phone calls, and then we pull up the files and see if there are any leads that have come forward,” said Dan Long, a Las Vegas Metropolitan Police homicide cold case investigator.
Dan Long and Terri Miller are both former Metro homicide detectives.
After retiring, both came back to work as cold case investigators.
“A cold case can be anything a week after it occurred when there are no current leads, all the way back to I think the 1940s, there are some cases in there that are that old,” Miller said.
They say there are roughly 1,600 cases unsolved, but, they also credit advances in technology for helping them dwindle that pile.
“DNA is the biggest change that we’ve seen since 1991 when I first started,” Miller said. “We didn’t even really use DNA at that point.”
“We didn’t bring on DNA technology as it’s known today until 1999 so there were a lot of years that we were in operation, 20-25 years prior to that as the forensic lab, we did not have that technology,” said Kimberly Murga, the director of Forensic Laboratory Services.
Metro now dedicates an entire lab to it. Other labs focus on firearms or lifting latent fingerprints.
“Technology has helped in the ability to analyze evidence and provide leads,” Murga said. “Our goal is to get that information as quickly as possible to our detectives, so we do work in tandem?”
When it comes to analyzing cold case evidence, detectives meet with forensic scientists and then determine what type of evidence is best to test.
“They’re like yes on certain things; you can’t do that on other things,” said Murga. “We’re thinking as far out of the box as we can get and obviously they’re going to pull us back to reality.”
Other advances include Metro Police now accessing the FBI database. Four retired detectives currently work in metro’s cold case section.