AIKEN, SC (WJBF) – We speak with many families of the murdered and missing about the long wait for justice. But law enforcement officials now have new tools and technology they can apply to investigations with an older date to solve these complex cases.
No matter when tragedy hits a family, getting information on the murdered and missing can be hard. But when people talk, even if it’s anonymously, it could be the break law enforcement needs.
“That one tip. That one lead. Whether it be some information they hear or a name could open a lot of doors to where we can use some of this technology,” Det. Jason Griffin with Aiken Department of Public Safety told us.
Advancements made in the technological world help investigators solve cold cases more and more each day. So, Cold Case Project sat down with Det. Griffin in Aiken to see how it all works.
“We have the ability, here at public safety, to take a cell phone or tablet or an iPad. If we were to develop a suspect and basically do a forensic extraction of that device to see if any data that may be on the phone can be used to help solve the case,” he explained.
Once they have the suspect’s device, the information is limitless.
“Load the location of the potential suspect or person of interest. It can reveal content data. Which is basically communications with other people via text message or phone calls,” he said. “Most times when you take a photo or a video on your phone there’s properties attached to it that are time stamped.”
While some cold cases have an older date, they never close. Det. Griffin said statements and evidence get reviewed to see if newer technology can be applied. Sometimes, witnesses are even reinterviewed too.
“When you process a crime scene and you get fingerprints, first of all, you have to rule out the people who live in the house. Hopefully, what you have left is a suspect,” Capt. Jimmy Wylds with Burke County Sheriff’s Office said. “The hope is, those go into the AFIS system, and when people are arrested around the country, their fingerprints are put into the system and if they match then bingo, you have something to go on.”
AFIS stands for Automated Fingerprint Identification Systems, a national program that stems back to the 1980s to help identify criminals.
Along with fingerprints, DNA helps too. Evidence previously gathered may have blood, hair or skin cells that may have been missed. A system called CODIS or Combined DNA Index System can help match the suspect with the DNA.
Det. Griffin added, “You may can get evidence reran a second or third time as newer, DNA technologies come available.”
Software programs help as well. Det. Griffin said Aiken Department of Public Safety also networks with other agencies collaborating on similar cases. Other tools include talking to witnesses again.
Capt. Wylds said, “Something that beats technology is somebody that happen to see it, somebody that happen to be there, somebody that heard about it.”
The GBI also uses technology with cold cases too. Reserve Agent Coordinator Chris Tolbert runs the Cold Case Squad for GBI in Atlanta. He said using its headquarters and crime lab, in Atlanta, technology such as fingerprint analysis (IAFIS and AFIS), DNA or CODIS and a robust intelligence group that many local agencies do not have access to all help. They can check records on weapons, personal information or anything that can track a person. This can help tie a suspect to a crime. All of these tools are available for smaller agencies to request GBI to use.
Technology keeps improving and perhaps, some of these updated techniques can be applied to your loved one’s case. Remember, it’s important for you to check in with investigators, keeping your information updated and staying on top of the status of the case.
Next time on the Cold Case Project, we take you to Fairfax, South Carolina where Mar’quelle Thomas was shot at his Aiken Avenue home on April 10, 2018. He was 22-years-old. What family and law enforcement need to get justice and close the case.