Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2021, $535,000)
The goals of this project would be to increase the number of violent crime cold case prosecutions and to decrease the number of unresolved violent crime cold cases awaiting/pending prosecution. These two goals will be accomplished by the Houston Police Department in conjunction with the Harris County District Attorney’s Office. The primary objectives that will be achieved are the prosecution of violent crime cold cases where suspects have been identified through DNA evidence along with decreasing the number of unresolved violent crime cold cases where suspect DNA has been identified. The Harris County District Attorney’s office currently has two pending cold cases trials in which DNA was used to identify the now charged suspects. As for the second of the primary objectives that Houston Police Department has identified 104 unsolved murder cases in which an unknown suspect’s DNA have been extracted and entered into CODIS. Out of those 104 unsolved murders, the oldest case dates back to 1981 and the most current is from 2015.
Regardless of the amount of time that has passed, there is no statute of limitations for murder in the state of Texas. The department acknowledges that not all cases may be able to benefit from the latest DNA technology, but the cases can be better reviewed with this grant in anticipation for new DNA technology that may emerge in the future. This allows the Cold Case Squad to never completely shelf an unsolved murder in Houston.
Many families are awaiting justice for their loved ones and it becomes disheartening for those families when they see other agencies solving these type of murders. With the use of genealogy and advancements in DNA technology, the Houston Police Department will be able to not only show their commitment but their capability on bringing closure and justice for the families of murdered loved ones. The department knows that the community is a vital part and these cases being solved will demonstrate its commitment to the community in which it serves.