T.V. shows like C.S.I., Criminal Minds and Numbers make it look like every murder is solved and quickly and usually with some gee-whiz technology or witnesses who are glad to talk and suspects who confess.
The truth is far different. Despite D-N-A and all the technology that's come down the pike in this country, more killers are walking around free than ever before.
The FBI says 91 percent of the country's murders were solved in 1963, but, only 61 percent were in 2007.
Local detectives tell me several things play into that... the no snitching attitude that has become a popularized part of life, the number of killings between people who don't really have a relationship or motive. Plus, cases get harder, the more time that passes. Witnesses die, memories worsen.
Tulsa's lead homicide Sergeant, Mike Huff has long been a proponent of working cold cases and has pushed the department to provide money and detectives to work in its cold case squad. Sgt. Huff sees the need to work cold cases as so critical; he's now forming an International Cold Case Squad, to help agencies all over the U.S. take a fresh look at unsolved murders. (The group has asked me to be on its board of directors.) The board will include detectives, professors, victims' family members and media from all over the country.
The group's first goal would be to create a database of serial killers in this country. To date, no one has created such a thing so there's no way to track movements and follow trails of bodies and group victims together in a comprehensive way.
DNA and other scientific inventions are great tools, but, those databases are backlogged and testing can be expensive. They are not the end-all, be-all. Many cases are solved by detectives doggedly pursuing reluctant victims, witnesses and suspects. Getting them to talk and ultimately tell the truth is certainly not something that happens in an hour, sometimes, not for years.
The importance of solving these cases cannot be overstated for the families. Murder shatters families in ways you can't even imagine until you are there... drugs, suicides, divorces and more. Having someone held responsible for the most heinous crime in our society is important on many levels. It lets people know we do still value life and you can't take it without paying a price and being punished. It gives families some small patch of peace over the hole of grief in their hearts and sends a message that killers cannot walk among us.
But, that message is taking a hit right now on a national scale. Tulsa's homicide clearance rate is still above the national average, but, our detectives say even one killer among us, is too many.