March 18, 2008


Lawmakers consider ‘cold case’ unit for unsolved murders


Iowa moved closer today to the creation of the first statewide unsolved murder cold-case unit when lawmakers included the idea as part of a budget proposal.

“We’ve demonstrated in the past that if we can dedicate time to these cases, we have had success,” said Kevin Winker, a special agent for the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation who would likely oversee the cold case department.

The department would start with two agents who would focus upon the state’s 150 murder cases that have gone unsolved during the past five decades. Those cases are not systematically reviewed because investigators are largely consumed with fresher cases, Winker said.

That would change with the creation of a cold case department.

Emily Blomme is the program director of Horizons Survivor’s Program, a nonprofit group that helps families in about two dozen eastern Iowa counties deal with unsolved murders. Focus on solving the cold cases would help grieving families but also would enhance public safety by potentially removing dozens of killers from the streets, she said.

Brandi Hoffmann agreed with Blomme. Her niece, Evelyn Miller, disappeared from her family’s Floyd County apartment in 2005. The kindergartner’s body was later found dead in the Cedar River.

More than two years later, no one has been arrested in the murder. It is not classified as a cold case but Hoffmann has had fears that it could someday reach that stage.

“I think something like this has been ignored for too long,” Hoffmann said of the creation of the cold case unit. “Something like a homicide is unpleasant to begin with but it’s especially unpleasant if it goes unsolved.”

A federal grant of about $200,000 would pay to start the program but its official creation is dependent upon the Legislature’s approval.

The House Appropriations Committee today included the proposal as part of a proposed justice system budget, House Study Bill 773.

While the plan would not cost money out of the state’s budget in the fiscal year that begins July 1, future years will likely require state allocations to continue the department’s work, state officials said.

U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin helped land the grant. He praised the Legislature’s actions today.

“It is my hope that it will, as it has in other states, lead directly to the arrest and prosecution of previously unknown rapists and murderers,” Harkin said.


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