Texas is a state with a rich history and a diverse culture, but it also has a dark side. According to the FBI, Texas has the second-highest number of unsolved homicides in the nation, with more than 1,300 cases dating back to 1980. Some of these cases have been classified as cold cases, meaning that they have no active leads or suspects, and have been left unresolved for years or even decades.
What is a cold case?
A cold case is a criminal investigation that has not been solved after a certain period of time, usually one year or more. Cold cases can involve any type of crime, such as murder, rape, robbery, kidnapping, or missing persons. Cold cases are challenging for law enforcement agencies, as they often lack physical evidence, witnesses, or suspects. Cold cases also take a toll on the victims’ families and friends, who are left without closure or justice.
Why are there so many cold cases in Texas?
There are many factors that contribute to the high number of cold cases in Texas, such as:
The size and population of the state: Texas is the second-largest state in the US, with an area of 268,597 square miles and a population of 29.36 million people. This means that there are more potential crime scenes, victims, and perpetrators in Texas than in most other states.
The diversity and mobility of the population: Texas is a melting pot of different cultures, ethnicities, and backgrounds, which can make it difficult to identify or track down suspects. Texas also has a high rate of migration, both within and outside the state, which can make it easier for criminals to evade detection or prosecution.
The lack of resources and coordination: Texas has more than 2,000 law enforcement agencies, including local, county, state, and federal authorities. However, not all of these agencies have the necessary resources, training, or technology to handle complex or cold cases. Moreover, there is no centralized database or system for sharing information or evidence among different agencies, which can lead to duplication, confusion, or loss of data.
The statute of limitations: Texas has a statute of limitations for most crimes, which means that there is a time limit for filing charges or prosecuting offenders. For example, the statute of limitations for murder is four years, unless the offender is identified by DNA or other means. This means that some cold cases may become ineligible for prosecution, even if new evidence or suspects emerge.
Which Texas city has the most cold cases?
According to a report by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), the city with the most cold cases in the state is Houston, with 336 unsolved homicides as of 2020. Houston is the largest and most populous city in Texas, with an estimated population of 2.31 million people. Houston also has a high crime rate, with 275 murders, 1,317 rapes, 9,965 robberies, and 12,050 aggravated assaults reported in 2019.
Some of the most notorious cold cases in Houston include:
The Ice Box Murders: On June 23, 1965, the decomposed bodies of Fred and Edwina Rogers, an elderly couple, were found in their refrigerator by their nephew. Their heads, limbs, and organs had been cut off and stored in different parts of the fridge. The prime suspect was their son, Charles Rogers, a reclusive and eccentric engineer, who had disappeared from the scene. He was never found or charged, and the motive for the murders remains unknown.
The Killing Fields: Between 1971 and 1991, the bodies of at least 30 young women and girls were found in a 25-acre patch of land near Interstate 45, south of Houston. The victims, who ranged in age from 9 to 25, had been sexually assaulted, strangled, stabbed, or shot. Some of them had been missing for months or years before their remains were discovered. Only a few suspects have been arrested or convicted in connection with some of the cases, but the majority of the killings remain unsolved.
The Lovers’ Lane Murders: On August 23, 1990, Cheryl Henry and Andy Atkinson, a young couple, were found brutally murdered in a wooded area off a secluded road in west Houston. They had been bound, gagged, and stabbed multiple times. Cheryl had also been raped and her throat had been slashed. A message written in lipstick on the driver’s side window of Andy’s car read “I will kill again”. Despite a $50,000 reward and several leads, the killer has never been identified or caught.
What is being done to solve cold cases in Texas?
There are several initiatives and programs that aim to solve cold cases in Texas, such as:
The Texas Ranger Unsolved Crimes Investigation Program: This program was created in 2001 by the Texas Legislature, and its primary objective is to provide Texas law enforcement agencies with a process for investigating unsolved murders or serial crimes. The program assigns Texas Rangers to assist local agencies with cold case reviews, evidence analysis, suspect development, and case coordination. The program also maintains a website that features unsolved cases and offers cash rewards for information that leads to arrests.
The Texas Department of Public Safety Crime Laboratory Service: This service provides forensic science support to law enforcement agencies across the state, including DNA testing, fingerprint analysis, ballistics, toxicology, and trace evidence. The service also participates in the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), a national database that allows the comparison of DNA profiles from crime scenes, victims, and offenders. The service has helped solve hundreds of cold cases by linking DNA evidence to known or unknown suspects.
The Texas Missing Persons Clearinghouse: This clearinghouse, which is part of the DPS, collects and disseminates information on missing persons and unidentified remains in Texas. The clearinghouse also coordinates with the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs), a web-based platform that allows the public and law enforcement to access and share data on missing and unidentified persons. The clearinghouse and NamUs have helped identify and locate many missing persons and resolve cold cases.
Texas is a state with a large number of cold cases, which pose a challenge for law enforcement and a tragedy for the victims’ families. However, there are also efforts and resources dedicated to solving these cases and bringing justice and closure to those affected. The city with the most cold cases in Texas is Houston, which has also witnessed some of the most horrific and baffling crimes in the state’s history. Hopefully, with the help of technology, science, and public cooperation, these cases will not remain cold forever.