Critical funding in solving cold-case murders runs out

Critical funding in solving cold-case murders runs out

Dozens of cold-case homicides, such as the brutal murder of Kala Peterson in 1995 near Woodlawn Park, were reopened and aggressively investigated, thanks to critical federal funding.

Now, the money to allow retired detectives to investigate these crimes has run out.

Thanks to a federal grant, the number of investigators in the Portland Police Bureau's cold case unit was boosted from five volunteers to eight paid full-time detectives, relieving the workload of investigators working current cases.

The grant boasted many solved cases over the years.

In the case of Peterson, retired detective George Young said he will never forget the horrific homicide of Peterson, who was killed seemingly for the jacket on her back.

The case went cold for 18 years.

But the retired detective, acting on a caller’s tip, worked the Northeast Portland homicide and identified a suspect. In 2010, the accused killer Shawntell Moses was found not guilty in the murder of Peterson. However, his cousin, Dana Rankins, is serving 25 years in connection to the killing.

Investigators say the federal grant made a huge impact: Between 2004 and 2007, 57 cold cases were reviewed – compared to the 187 reviewed between 2007 and 2011.

Roughly 300 of the countless homicides investigated by Portland police are unsolved.

Young said investigating the unsolved cases allows him provide a service to the community. He suspects some of the retired detectives will still work for free now that the funding is gone.

The retired detective said the memories compel him to keep hunting down leads.

“You remember innocent victims. You remember things that simply shouldn’t happen to people,” Young said.