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Majority leader Bradley vows to take action on NH cold cases

New Hampshire Union Leader

June 12. 2018 8:36PM

CONCORD — After operating without a full-time prosecutor for nearly five years, momentum is building to significantly increase funding for the Attorney General’s cold case unit.

Senate Majority Leader Sen. Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, said in an interview Tuesday that if he wins reelection in November he will introduce a specific bill to pay for several full-time attorneys to work in the unit, which currently has a list of 132 unsolved murder, suspicious death and missing person cases. His announcement followed a report in Sunday’s Union Leader in which multiple investigators with experience working cold cases said a lack of prosecutorial resources had delayed investigations and prosecutions.

“I’ve been concerned with cold cases for some time, as two of them are from Wolfeboro,” Bradley said. “I’ve heard from people in both families that are just very concerned that there’s never been justice for either case.”

Attorney General Gordon MacDonald has already requested funding for two more full-time prosecutors for the cold case unit, but Bradley said he believes the appropriation has a better chance of going through if it is presented as a standalone bill, which will allow for hearings and stakeholder testimony.

The cold case unit was created in 2009 with funding from a U.S. Department of Justice grant. When that money ran out in 2013, the unit’s full-time prosecutor became part-time. There has been steady turnover in that role — four separate attorneys have held the position since 2009 — as well as among the unit’s state police investigators. Eight different state troopers have rotated through two positions, some staying for less than a year.

While the unit has closed five of its initial 117 cases, more than a dozen other cases have come to light and been added to the backlog.

New Hampshire is far from the only state struggling with a lack of resources for cold case investigations. Many law enforcement agencies around the country don’t have dedicated cold case investigators, much less units, and those that do must contend with an ever-increasing number of cases. Nearly half of all murders committed in the U.S. in 2016 went unsolved that year, according to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program.

The longer a case goes unresolved, the harder it is to prove who the killer was beyond a reasonable doubt. Even with additional resources, the Attorney General’s office acknowledged that many of its cold cases may be unsolvable.

But in a 2011 report, researchers with the Rand Corporation found that of the many factors that can contribute to whether or not cold cases are solved, funding was the only one that showed a statistically significant — albeit small — effect on the closure rate.

New Hampshire’s unit shows both promise and areas of concern that may be longer-term effects of the resource strain, according to experts.

The Granite State is one of the few with a statewide unit. The fact that state officials want to dedicate prosecutors to work on cold case investigations from the beginning, rather than simply reviewing the evidence when detectives are done, is encouraging, said Joseph Giacalone, a former cold case unit supervisor in New York City’s Bronx borough who now teaches at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

But in addition to the lack of funding, he said officials need to address the turnover among prosecutors and investigators.

“For an elite unit, that’s very odd to me,” Giacalone said, adding “It’s tough to build that culture when you have investigators going in and out every few months. It’s hard to build that camaraderie and kind of investigative ability.”

Karen Beaudin, whose 13-year-old sister, Kathy Lynn Gloddy, was murdered in 1971 in Franklin, was a leading advocate for the creation of New Hampshire’s cold case unit and now travels the country talking to homicide investigators.

Nearly everywhere she goes, she finds a shortage of moral and financial support for cold case teams.

“I don’t know what the answer as far as funding them is, but I do know that a cold case unit is needed and is valuable,” Beaudin said. “These people are still out there and God knows what they’re still doing.”

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