Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2021, $535,000)
The Monterey County District Attorney’s Office Cold Case Task Force, which represents the county’s largest and most comprehensive effort to identify, review, investigate, and prosecute unresolved homicide cases, is proposing to select 45 violent crime cold cases over three years for specialized DNA testing and focused investigation. The project’s ultimate objective will be to use contemporary forensic DNA technology to identify and prosecute suspects and to help restore the names of unidentified persons in the coroner’s office, which will ultimately decrease the overall number of violent crime cold cases in the community and create accountability for violent crimes.
The Task Force, which includes seasoned homicide investigators and a dedicated prosecutor with substantial cold-case experience, has created a proprietary database to identify, categorize, and examine unsolved cold cases throughout the county. Using the database to help identify cases that have the highest likelihood of being solved with the assistance of grant funding, the Task Force will select 15 cases per year where either suspect DNA has been identified or there is DNA evidence that can help identify previously unidentified remains. The Task Force will utilize all available technology and investigative efforts to locate and identify the suspect or decedent, including through familial DNA searching and genetic genealogy through properly accredited private laboratories when necessary. The Task Force would use grant funding to hire an annuitant investigator to exclusively work cold cases with identified suspect DNA, to perform specialized DNA testing, and to fund overtime hours and necessary travel expenses for investigators to conduct interviews, obtain the necessary samples and evidence, test and pursue all leads and build a prosecutable case. Additionally, the grant would fund legal secretary overtime hours to ensure that all appropriate cases are entered into the ViCAP and NamUs databases.
The Task Force members sincerely believe that the combination of grant funding, the application of current DNA technologies, and focused investigative efforts will result in the identification of suspects in many of these unsolved crimes. Once the suspects have been identified, the project will utilize grant funds to conduct follow-up investigation, in collaboration with the prosecutor’s office, designed to eliminate any reasonable doubt as to the suspect’s guilt and generate cases that can be filed and successfully prosecuted.
The Task Force represents a joint effort of the county’s police chiefs, the Sheriff’s Office and the District Attorney’s Office, designed to increase inter-agency collaboration, combine the talents and expertise of multiple investigators to examine these unresolved cases with fresh eyes, and to demonstrate to the citizens of Monterey County that these victims and their cases have not been forgotten despite the passage of time.