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No answers to cold case unit queries

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BY AMELIA HARPER
Staff Writer

Monday, March 11, 2019

The investigation of roughly 55 cold cases by the Rocky Mount Police Department has come under scrutiny and criticism lately by some local media outlets and social media sites that have claimed that the year-old Cold Case Squad has been “dismantled.”

The squad has not been dismantled, said Brad Summerlin of the Rocky Mount Police Department. It has merely been restructured and now has a full-time officer and a part-time retired officer assigned to the cases.

The Telegram tried to give the police department a chance to tell its side of the story to help clear up any confusion arising from rumors being spread about the status of the squad. Department leaders were asked about the makeup of the squad after the restructure, who is leading the effort, its goals, how many actual cases are still on the cold case books, what it has accomplished so far and whether the cold case squad has the support of the new interim Police Chief George Robinson. 

Representatives of the police department were not allowed to respond to the inquires — instead, the Telegram received one simple statement from Tameka Kenan-Norman, chief communications officer for the city of Rocky Mount:

“The cold case unit was restructured January 2019. We would like to provide these investigators a sufficient amount of time before responding to the work accomplished by this unit.”

The Cold Case Squad was created in 2018 by former interim Police Chief Willie Williams, who repeatedly expressed his desire to clear up as much of the backlog of cold cases as possible. The original Cold Case Squad was made up of retired police employees, according to a press release sent out in January by the city of Rocky Mount. 

“The Cold Case Unit has meticulously reviewed seven cases to date. Their efforts have led to submissions of DNA evidence to a private lab, interviews of witnesses, suspects and involved parties and the linking of weapons to multiple crimes based on ballistic reports. Cold case reviews are designed to ensure a thorough reconciliation of the investigative steps taken at the time of the crime with current practices and forensic technology. Our goal is to ensure all reasonable steps have been taken to identify the offender,” the press release said.

The press release also stated that significant financial resources have been invested to process evidence and to solicit information in all active homicides and cold case homicides.

“The Rocky Mount Police Department offers a standing $5,000 reward for information that leads to identification and arrest of any homicide offender. Citizens with knowledge of any crime are encouraged to share their information with the Rocky Mount Police Department,” the release said.

It is not known if that offer still applies after the restructure of the Cold Case Squad as the city would not answer the question, “How can members of the community help solve cold cases?”

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