What is a cold case?

By Paul Gottlieb

Special to the Peninsula Daily News

A cold case is defined by the National Institute of Justice (nij.ojp.gov) as “any case whose probative investigative leads have been exhausted,” including cases that are a few months old.

The Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and People Task Force “sounds like a great use of resources, said Deputy Chief Jason Viada. “We have people in our state that have been murdered and their killers have not been brought to justice. Obviously, we need to do something about that.”

But the definition of a cold case remains unclear.

“We don’t know definitively how many cold cases exist, in part because different agencies define that differently, and in part because we don’t have the current status of every case in our system,” Brionna Aho, Attorney General’s Office spokesperson, said in an email.

“Generally speaking, a common definition of a cold case is a case that is at least five years old and not currently being worked due to lack of leads.”

John Hillman, the division chief for the AG’s Office Criminal Justice Division, said there is no definition in the Revised Code of Washington, the compendium of state statutes, suggesting it’s simply a case that’s no longer being worked on.

“I do want the unit to be as open as it can be, keeping in mind the limited resources it has here in its infancy, but to be open to assisting any agency that has an unsolved violent crime involving an indigenous person, so we will be liberal there as best we can,” he said.

Aho said there are 116 unsolved murder cases in Washington involving indigenous persons, and 11 unsolved murdered persons cases in Clallam County, including the 2019 murder of Valerie Claplanhoo, 57, the only one listed on the Homicide Investigation Tracking System.

Legislation creating a cold-case unit for missing and murdered indigenous persons “does not require an agency [to] identify a case as cold in order to request assistance from the unit,” Aho said in an email.

“The unit will, however, prioritize cold cases.”


Legislative Reporter Paul Gottlieb, a former senior reporter at Peninsula Daily News, can be reached at cpaulgottlieb@gmail.com.

More in News

Sewer upgrades set at Sequim schools

Pumps to be replaced at elementary facilities

Clallam County defers 7 positions in budget

Two jobs connected with general fund will be reconsidered in 6 months

Worst of rainfall over on Peninsula

Atmospheric river unleashes flooding, downed trees

Port Townsend OKs its budget for 2024

Reflects more than $60 million in expenses

Port of Port Townsend’s process for Short’s Farm underway

Steering committee includes farmers, land use organizations

Clallam residents reappointed to advisory boards

The Clallam County commissioners have reappointed several residents to… Continue reading

Blacklight art requested for show

Art for the Bring Your Own Blacklight Art Show,… Continue reading

Santa Claus, portrayed by John Greiner of Port Angeles, gets licks and kisses from Maru, a white husky mix belonging to Ally Kreider of Port Angeles, at the second annual Santa Paws holiday photo event on Saturday at Petsense in Port Angeles. Pet owners were allowed to bring their critters for a photo with Santa in an event sponsored by the Soroptimist International Noon Club of Port Angeles. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)
Holiday kisses

Santa Claus, portrayed by John Greiner of Port Angeles, gets licks and… Continue reading

Clallam County: 2-phase approach for Towne Road

Commissioners want trail atop levee

Jefferson County budget has good outlook

Commissioners expected to vote next week

Sheriff’s deputy, good Samaritan rescue two from water

Two people were rescued from 1,000 feet offshore in Squamish… Continue reading

Law enforcement: Sleeping smoker cause of house fire

A man who fell asleep while smoking was determined… Continue reading