Thursday, August 5, 2010

Whose Case Is It!? When Family and Friends Investigate the Case

By Sheryl McCollum

When the victim was your child or husband or sister what can you do when the case goes cold?  How do you contact the Detective or District Attorney?  The police do not call you anymore.  Leads have stopped coming in.  There are no more volunteer searches.  What now?

First: No one is more invested than you in the case.  There are dedicated, caring and devoted officers, DA’s and victim advocates – but the bottom-line is the victim was NOT our loved one.  As a family member or friend you have a vested interest that others just do not have.  How then do you proceed?  Carefully!  You do not want to hurt the investigation in any way.  You do not want to “piss off” the only people that can truly take this case forward. 

Social Media:
The use of the social networks is a great way to keep your case alive in the public.  You can start a FaceBook page that highlights the “missing person” or the anniversary of the victim’s murder.   Past media coverage can be added to sites so that new “friends” on Face Book can see the coverage and learn more about the case.

Contact Blog Talk Radio host and inquire about having you and other loved ones on their show.  Perhaps they can invite the detective as well and “jump start” their renewed interest in the case.  If the police think the media is going to start asking questions about what has been done on a case a detective will want to have up-dates on their “work” on the case
Design a web site that host your on “Tip Line”.  People can see up-dates, leave messages and leave a tip all in the same place.  If any tips are left on the site the family should turn over to law enforcement.  The detective can determine if the tip has legs are not. Example: Missing Jessie Foster (Face Book)

Local Media:
Develop relationships with all local media – TV reporters, newspaper reporters and radio station personalities.  Remember you need them.  Be polite and understanding if they do not see your case as a story.  The old saying: “if it bleeds it leads” is true.  Therefore, if your case is 3 years old and no leads, nothing new – what can they write about? 

What you can do is wait and when there is a new murder, rape or missing person call media and try to make a statement about the current case and inevitably your case will be highlighted again.

Face to face Meetings:
Call and request a face to face meeting with the lead detective, district attorney and medical examiner.  Your local victim advocate can assist in setting up this meeting.  During the meeting allow the professional to tell you where the case is.  Then have your list of questions ready (prepared before meeting) and calmly go through each one.  Then let the professionals know your plans to keep this case alive.  Get their feedback on the plans.  Send a thank you note for the meeting.  Let them know in that note that you will forward any and all tips to you. The thank you note is just another remainder that you will not go away – but it is also the right thing to do.

National Media:
Your social networking and local media can assist you in getting the attention of the National Media and Crime Shows.  Make certain that you keep all coverage so that the national folks have something to “see”.  Law enforcement can use the national attention to again show their efforts on your case.  Allow them to show off and talk about all their crime solving abilities and the hurdles in your case.  Ask the public for help!  Somebody may have seen something and never called the police.  Someone may know the killer, rapist, or kidnapper.  The criminal is out there on the loose.  Make a plea for help in solving the case.  Let people know if the police have not come to you – go to them!
Example: Nancy Grace Show or AMW

Bring In Outside Expert:
Hire a reputable Private Investigator.  Many PI’s are ex-law enforcement and can run down leads and re-interview witnesses.   There are private crime labs.  If there is evidence that has not been tested perhaps the family can pay for it to be tested.  There are experts at the local colleges that may also be able to help in a cold case.  The Cold Case Investigative Research Institute utilizes experts in many different fields in order to work a cold case.  For example, anthropologist can locate artifacts from the civil war – don’t you think they could possibly locate a casting from your crime scene?  They have the expertise and the equipment – let them help!

It’s NOT weak to ask for help!  Be nice, polite and understanding.  Everyone has a job to do in order to solve a case.  Let them do their job and do yours!


  1. You ladies are all Angels! You have made a difference in people's lives!

  2. certainly have!


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