A look at the number of unsolved cold homicides in Northeast Ohio

In Northeast, Ohio Summit County is the county with the highest number of unsolved homicides with a total of 171 since 1960, according to the Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s website.

“Since launching the database expansion, we have received dozens of tips regarding several of the listed cases,” said DeWine.  “We want to keep reminding Ohioans that it is never too late to come forward with information. Even information that might seem insignificant could be the detail that breaks a case.”

Different types of cold cases*

1. Homicide: the deliberate and unlawful killing of one person by another; murder.

2. Sexual Assault: any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient.

3. Robberies: the taking of the property of another from his or her person or in his or her immediate presence, against his or her will, by violence or intimidation.

4. Burglaries: entry into a building illegally with intent to commit a crime, especially theft.

5. Missing persons: someone who has disappeared and whose status as alive or dead cannot be confirmed as their location and fate is not known.

*All these definitions are according to the United States Justice Department

This number, 171, doesn’t include other types of cold cases such as sexual assault, robbery, burglary and missing persons.

Currently there is no definition for a cold case, according to the National Sheriff’s Association.

“There is no certain time limit,” said Lt. John R. Peake, the Summit County investigations bureau commander. “A case becomes cold when you have done everything you think that you can possibly do you put it up on the shelf making it inactive.”

Even though there is no exact definition for it, a cold case can be considered a crime or an accident that has not yet been fully solved and is not the subject of a recent criminal investigation.

In 2005, the Investigations Bureau Unit received a grant through the Justice Department that would allow them to spend more time on trying to solve cold cases in Summit County. It was one of only three in Ohio to be awarded the grant.

“With that grant, we were able to go and look at all of our homicides and sex offenses,” said Peake. “We were able to get all the evidence and submit it to the Bureau of Criminal Investigations and get DNA.”

New developments in modern day technology can allow cold cases to be solved because they allow for the finding and testing of evidence that was possible before, said Peake.

“There was a case a in 1992 where a belt that was used to strangle a young lady was never submitted into evidence,” said Peake. “Using modern day technology allowed us to get DNA off the belt and arrest the suspect after finding his DNA on the murder weapon.”

The Summit County investigations bureau is currently contracted by different agencies, cities and/or townships to help them solve current crimes.

“There is no funding to do cold case investigations,” said Lt. Peake. “In order to do a cold case investigation, it takes a lot of time.”

Within the last 10 years, the Sheriff’s office Investigation Bureau has gone through every one of it’s cold cases and submitted them to BCI for testing using modern technology with DNA. That is a process that can be very expensive and isn’t a luxury that can be used for every case.

“I would like to see that it is more federally or state funded to give a person to work a little bit more in depth,” said Peake. “I believe there are a lot of cold cases out there that can be solved but can’t be solved because the money just isn’t there.”