EVANS, Ga. (WJBF) – NewsChannel 6’s Cold Case Project brought together law enforcement and families of cold case victims to learn new technologies and gain renewed hope.
“It’s only one way to come into this world. But it’s a lot of ways we leave the world,” said Pastor Angela C. Harden, who opened with words of encouragement and prayer.
Families featured on NewsChannel 6’s Cold Case Project came face to face with law enforcement over brunch.
GBI Thomson Assistant Special Agent In Charge Sara Lue shared, “Another type of DNA that we work with is touch DNA. When you touch an object, especially an object that has a more abrasive surface, your skin cells rub off on that. One of the best surfaces that we work with is the actual handle of guns.”
Lue spoke on the Georgia Bureau of Investigation with its 15 regional offices mostly working on violent crimes, some of them cold cases.
And Augusta’s FBI also shared while they get called by local agencies on cases, victims can request them too. They may not be able to take on the case, but will effort to look over it. And with its national DNA database always evolving, there’s hope.
“Anytime we arrest somebody, they get their swab taken, they’re then entered into our CODIS system, their DNA is put on file. So, if you’ve got a loved one whose got subject DNA that is identified as unknown, in the CODIS system, it will continue to hit against these new DNA samples that are put in the database all the time,” said Brian Ozden, FBI Atlanta, Supervisory Senior Resident Agent, Augusta Office. CODIS stands for Combined DNA Index System.
DNA Doe Project, an all volunteer team of investigative genetic genealogists, solve cases where people are unknown at first. Rebecca Sommerhalder shared with the group that through lots of family tree mapping with DNA from GEDMatch and Family Tree DNA, those John and Jane Does are eventually identified.
And then there’s the CSRA’s Project Drew. Founder Andrew Cato turned the pain of his missing and murdered son into success stories for others.
“When somebody goes missing you contact the police and you think, hey I’ve done everything I know to do, right? No,” Cato said adding that he created a group that will gather all types of resources to help locate and bring someone home.
With a flame still ignited, and hope never fading, families shared too.
“These are my sisters, Jeannette and Dannette Millbrook. They’ve been missing for, coming up March the 18th, 33 years,” said Shanta Sturgis, sister to the Millbrook twins who attended with her mother, Mary Louise Sturgis.
“[Law enforcement] They’re not helping,” said Carolyn Bates, mother of Larry Sanders Jr. “So, I’m mama. I’m going to do it.”
Tyesha Simmons, the sister of Travis Smith also shared. “He was murdered. He was standing outside with a female companion. Two men walked up to him and shot him and that is all we know.”
Caitlyn Kingery, the daughter of Tammy Kingery said, “This is my mother. She went missing when I was a sophomore in high school. This year will be nine years.”
“It’s a daily struggle. I want to know why. He never got to live his life. He was only 17,” Moneck Gains, mother of Daekwon Hines spoke.
“To this day, I can hear her sometimes,” Robin Reeves’ mother, Faye Reeves told the group.
NewsChannel 6’s Cold Case Project is able to host the brunch each year with help from Brandon Wilde in Evans.
Photojournalist: Regynal McKie