The title of this entry is neither a negative nor positive statement. It is simply a fact. To process anything there must be a policy. Therefore there is politics. Policy is written down. Procedure is not. One has to deal with both in pursuing a serial killer, especially 40 years after-the-fact.
Officially, cold case processing is largely left up to the “Geek Squad,” those that I admire so much because they are the brainy, wise guys, and frequenters of the strobing colors of eccentricity.
As most can imagine, in cold case there is seldom a hot tip. For someone to accuse someone else after 40 years doesn’t mean much. Where’s the evidence? If the accused is definitely the creeper type, and he looks good, where do you start to get the evidence?
It is the duty of the individual investigator. The “Geek Squad” is behind . . .the wall.
There is a wall that the investigator, whether private or official, must surmount. It is a very sympathetic wall, but it is a wall built by politics. The wall is built up of individual bricks of police chiefs, sheriffs, district attorneys, trial attorneys, police labs, forensic people. . . and the list of officialdom goes on. All very sympathetic to the pursuit of criminals. All very intrigued by the solving and exposing of a serial killer. But all bound by due process.
What is the motivating force behind this politics? There’s a fear about something. It is called being WRONG.
With a cold case most investigation leads to and underscores suspicion of an individual. It may even lead to moral certainty. The step beyond this is proof. For a case 40 years old, it comes down to matching fingerprints, if there were any, or today matching DNA, modern criminology’s genetic fingerprint.
Most who follow my writings have understood how difficult it is to get DNA. From a living suspect, who was an original suspect, it is easier. From someone who had never been suspected and has no record, it is more difficult. If the trail has led to a person of interest who is dead, it is extremely difficult. Boston Police had to stalk the nephew of the suspected Boston Strangler, and finally snatch his Evian bottle after he discarded it. No one is going to exhume a body or bother a family lightly.
At the DNA search level, there is no investigation. At this level it is purely processing.
The investigators had to line up enough before this to make it acceptable (probable cause) to knock on the door of an average citizen with no real criminal record. To disturb living family, it is out of the question without a lot of probable cause. It is legal to obtain DNA stealthily. Still, an awful lot is needed.
It always helps to have a suspect and case that has a lot of notoriety. This was one reason why Boston Police could get the OK to obtain a sample of Albert DeSalvo’s nephew’s DNA and link DeSalvo to one of the Strangler victims.
“Probable cause” means what it says.
But for a case 40 years old, what constitutes probable cause? It comes down to a case by case basis. For instance, I have provided much information out there on EAR/ONS’ modus operandi and one suspect in the case. My hope was to have inspired officialdom. The result would be to be relieved of the case. When queried I have given information on an official level.
I have found more was expected of me. I came up against the wall of processing. I have received praise, but praise has no value in the process. Praise for me has only one practical benefit. It attaches attention to my PPOI. If he becomes popular within officialdom, there are those who can take it further, quietly and quickly, like Boston did with DeSalvo.
I mentioned I was praised by another journalist in my last EAR/ONS post. It merely inspired late night posters to leave ripe comments. I’m afraid that attitude stems from those who approach this topic only from an entertainment level. I expressed my frustration that few have put my pursuit and contributions into print. The praise isn’t for me, but for my work, and I certainly want that to get coverage. It highlights what EAR/ONS really was, and it points to the type of person capable of having pulled off what he did. It has reintroduced many, many clues to the investigation.
My investigation’s presentation and step-by-step process through the system was intended and declared from the beginning to be public. Many victims and their families follow it. Each step is reported. Many journalists follow it. But each waits.
Journalistic caution echoes official caution. Praise is fine, but what do you have to start the process? I have been praised for establishing a firm foundation in the case, but where’s the beef? In one jurisdiction I gave lots of information to the cold case detective until he finally said “I got it! I got it!” It was enough for him to run a check through CODIS. That is processing, not investigating. Nothing I said, however, inspired him enough to start investigating. That is what I was supposed to be doing.
One detective does not like to tread into the jurisdiction of another. In one case, when I asked, one flatly refused. When that other jurisdiction’s lead detective contacted me for input I thought I had made it. I wrote to inspire a closer and official look at my PPOI. Nothing came back.
Well, I learned quickly. You have to have something close to the silver bullet. The investigator doesn’t inspire. He delivers.
After 40 years, creating suspicion around a person of interest that fits the profile is interesting, but what do you have? You have squat. The processers sit there and want to start the process. They are eager to start the process. But they need something to put on the conveyor belt of official action.
Well, as a private citizen I can get DNA. Not likely. In fact, to understand the process look to yourself in such a situation. Do you really want to approach cold some relative of your dead suspect about the subject of giving DNA to prove he was one of the nastiest people in criminal history? Now imagine an official investigator with lots of due process requirements, which includes the fears of attorneys and press and civil liberty leagues. Is it a wonder a silver bullet is needed?
In the case of EAR/ONS I can continue to try and get addresses that might match his movements with certain POIs. I am, in fact, still trying to get handwriting examples. Handwriting is something tangible to start the process. The wall opens up. Then “they” officially can root around for the silver bullet– DNA. The POI is then proved or removed. If there is a handwriting matchup, the DNA would likely match. The case is solved. That one little tidbit is all that is needed.
Officialdom stands on the wall. They don’t mind if you have a catapult. But you best lob something good at them or don’t try it at all and waste their time and damage your reputation. Until that time it is the independent investigator’s hard luck to forage outside the wall. Outside the wall there are terrible beasties, but the worst is a lot of time-gone-by.
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Since 1990 Gian J. Quasar has investigated a broad range of mysterious subjects, from strange disappearances to serial murders, earning in that time the unique distinction of being likened to “the real life Kolchak.” However, he is much more at home with being called The Quester. “He’s bloody eccentric, an historian with no qualifications who sticks his nose into affairs and gets results.” He is the author of several books, one of which inspired a Resolution in Congress.