Tulsa Police's Cold Case Squad

Wednesday, December 5th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Solving cold murder cases. As you know, Wayne Garrison was recently convicted of killing 13-year-old Justin Wiles back in 1989. What you may not know is how detectives finally cracked the case.

Tulsa Police's Cold Case Squad came across this picture of Wayne Garrison's arm in the old file. A detective thought it might be a bite mark, which led detectives to a bite expert, which caused them to exhume Justin's body to make a mold of his teeth. Detectives say the boy's teeth matched the bite mark, which led to other evidence that eventually got Garrison convicted and sentenced to death. News on Six crime reporter Lori Fullbright explains how the cold case squad works and which case it's targeting next.

The next case is the Phillips murder from December of 1992; in fact, detectives re-opened the case Wednesday morning. They were two brothers from a well-to-do family killed right before Christmas, very high profile, still unsolved, it is one of 170 cold cases that detectives try to solve every day. The first thing you see inside the cold case squad office is this wall of pictures, faces of people murdered in Tulsa, whose killers have never been caught.

Two detectives work full-time, going through old cases, all the evidence, interviews and pictures, to see if something was missed or something new has developed. Sgt Mike Huff, Homicide Squad: "When you look at cases from the 70's and 80's, there was no forensic testing, no access to the national fingerprint system. So, we have to keep track of the new technology and see if we can match it with specific cases.” Since Tulsa has 170 unsolved murders dating back to the 1940's, one detective takes the odd year murders, the other takes even years. Then, they give each case a point system and tackle the highest scoring cases first. They rate them on a scale of 1 to 50 with things like forensic evidence, eyewitnesses, named suspect each getting points. "We get a lot of information about killers, people bragging or whatever and we take the cases and the information and try to match it."

The next cold case priority, the murders of Bobby and David Phillips, viciously killed right before Christmas nine years ago. "We're gonna look at it with some different investigative techniques and do some different things.” The cold case squad is also tackling unresolved cases now, those cases that were dismissed before the preliminary hearing. Suspects were charged in each case, but for some reason, the case fell apart before court. "Lot of times, it's a problem with a witness. So, we'll go back through them and work out the problems they had because we're not going to let anyone get away with murder.”

Tulsa’s homicide squad may get another feather in its cap, it could become the Oklahoma hub for the FBI's VICAP program, that's the Violent Criminal Apprehension Program, which would make Tulsa a central depository for information regarding killers on the loose.