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Criminal justice experts discuss cold cases, how new evidence is found


The Columbia Police Department announced on Tuesday that it has reopened a cold case from 1994.

CPD released a statement that it reopened the 1994 murder of the 43-year-old Columbia resident Virginia Davis. Davis was found dead in her home in the 1500 block of Patsy lane on June 6, 1994.

Timothy Maher -- professor in the Criminology and Criminal Justice Department at the University of Missouri-St. Louis -- said a case is considered cold when "police have exhausted all the leads."

"They have followed up on all the evidence, spoken with all the possible witnesses and people who may have some information about the case," Maher said. "They get to the point where they really have run out of things to look into regarding the case."

Maher said there is "no specific point in a case where someone calls it a cold case. They simply just don't follow it as closely anymore."

Former Prosecuting Attorney Bill Tackett said advancements in science and gossip are a few of the leading reasons cold cases become solved.

"One is through science, right forensics, and so forth," Tackett said. "You know, 80%-to-85% of the cases I had as a prosecutor are prosecuted based on the defendants' words, whether to a confession or they were bragging."

Tackett said that if/when cold cases are tried, they are held to the same laws at the time of the crime.

"Laws can change and you're operating off of the law that was in place at the time of the said murder," Tackett said. "There are adjustments that have to be made there but the core of the crime has to be proved later, and can be proven at any time with murder, other crimes are within the statute of limitations."

A recent example of that would include the recent breakthrough in a 1984 rape case. James F. Wilson, of Mooresville, North Carolina, was arrested in connection with the March 1984 rape and assault of a woman in northeast Columbia. Wilson's case will be tried under 1984 statutes.

The North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation grabbed some of Wilson's trash and found a disposable razor with hair in the blades. The razor and other items were sent to CPD. The razor was then sent for DNA analysis, where it then matched the profile from the rape kit.

Article Topic Follows: Columbia

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Marina Diaz

Marina is a Multimedia Journalist for ABC 17 News, she is originally from Denver, Colorado. She went to Missouri Valley College where she played lacrosse and basketball, and anchored her school’s newscast.


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