On Thursday morning, some of the brightest and most experienced law enforcement minds from across Colorado converged at the Boulder County Justice Center where, behind closed doors, they put their heads together to try and bring closure to another one of the state's many cold-case murders.
The gathering was the eighth meeting of Colorado's cold case review team, a statewide task force comprised of members of various different law enforcement branches from all over the state put together to try to provide new insight into crimes that have waited years to be solved.
"These are cases that have been ignored for years for whatever reason," Boulder Assistant District Attorney Ryan Brackely said as he kicked off the session. "Now we're dusting off those boxes and taking another look."
Officials declined to identify which cases were being reviewed by the team during Thursday's Boulder visit.
The team was assembled in 2009, after legislation that would have provided funding for a specialized cold-case team at the Colorado Bureau of Investigation failed to pass. Without the funding, the CBI began to look into other ways to bring together a task force that would look into cold-case murders.
What resulted was a team comprised of people from every aspect of law enforcement from all across Colorado, from police detectives to coroners to prosecutors. The team periodically meets to go over select cold-case murders in the hopes that fresh eyes and expertise could provide breakthroughs.
"You get a complete case review, so everyone gets the same information but digests it in a way that's unique to them," said Audrey Simkins, the cold case analyst for the CBI. "It's nice to have all of their different perspectives. The other benefit to having all of those different disciplines is hearing the perspective from their counterparts from the other fields. It's a team approach."
Simkins said detectives present her with cold cases to be considered for presentation, with the team looking at one to four cases at each meeting.
"We look for a case where they're actually at a position where they tried a lot of things, and the agency has a good handle on the case but has some pointed questions," Simkins said. "They might be thinking about how to approach it or asking, 'Am I on the right track?'"
Convictions in Boulder
So far, the cold case review board has reviewed 21 cases, and two of them have yielded convictions -- both in Boulder County. Last year, Boulder County juries convicted both Michael Clark of the murder of Marty Grisham in 1994 and George Ruibal of the murder of Dana Pechin in 2007.
Brackley said that in both cases, the work of the review team was a major factor in taking the defendants to trial. Pechin's murder was the first case the cold case review team looked at, and Brackley said after the presentation, the Grand Junction Police Department offered to take a second look at the case.
"We essentially doubled our investigative team by joining forces with investigators from the Grand Junction Police Department, who pretty much volunteered to help us out," he said.
Brackley, who is the chair of the selection committee for the cold case review team, said many of the cases come from smaller departments, and the review team is a way to get access to resources they might not otherwise have.
"Suddenly you have access to hundreds of years of homicide and cold-case experience," Brackley said, adding that he himself has learned a lot from being a part of the team.
"Being part of the cold case review team has definitely been an educational experience for me in terms of different aspects and different dimensions of looking at cold cases," he said. "I've certainly learned a lot from all the expert folks on the review team, all of whom are really the best of the best in their jurisdictions."
'Bring them to justice'
Boulder County District Attorney Stan Garnett, who has said he wants to make bringing cold-case murders to trial a priority, also addressed the review team before they dove into their latest cases.
"This is a really important effort," Garnett said. "We really appreciate you all being here."
Simkins said the cold-case team is a way to make sure cases are not forgotten even as time goes by.
"Someone was murdered and taken from their family and their spouse and there should be some justice for that," she said. "I think it's important for the family that we make sure we are working these cases and taking them seriously.
"Ultimately, there is a murderer out there somewhere, and that's an issue with public safety. We want to bring them to justice."
Contact Camera Staff Writer Mitchell Byars at 303-473-1329 or email@example.com. ___