According to NPR, one out of three murder cases goes unsolved. But not cold cases are kept that way. With the influx of DNA evidence, technology and other resources, some unresolved cases do end up being closed; giving victims and their families one step towards closure. Cold Justice delves into cold cases and premieres on Oxygen on July 22nd at 8/7c. Here are cold cases that took not years, but decades to solve.
Lonnie Franklin Jr.’s reign of terror began in South Los Angeles in the mid- ‘80s and spanned decades before he was caught with the help of DNA technology. Known as the Grim Sleeper (because of an alleged “break” he took from killing), Franklin was convicted last year for murdering 10 women and attempting to murder one more. However, authorities say he may have killed upwards of 25 women in total. All of Franklin’s victims were shot, strangled, or both. He was ultimately arrested in 2010 after police used a familial DNA search to capture him.
The killer did it with...chewing gum. In 1981, Osmond Bell dumped the body of his former partner Nova Welsh. When Welsh got a new boyfriend, Bell apparently went crazy with rage. He killed her and used gum to secure the door of a cupboard where he dumped her body. Nearly four decades later, DNA was extracted from the gum as well as from a letter Bell used to try and finger an innocent man. Bell, now 60 years old, was finally brought to justice and convicted of manslaughter.
Green River Killer
This prolific killer eluded authorities for 20 years. On August 5, 1982, three bodies were found in the Green River near Seattle. A few days later, three more bodies were found in the area. All were young prostitutes and they had been killed in the same way. At least 49 young women would fall prey to the so-called Green River Killer over the next two decades. Three men were arrested before the real killer was caught. In 2001, new DNA technology allowed old evidence to be tested and a man named Gary Ridgway (who had been apprehended earlier but let go due to lack of evidence) was found to be the culprit. Authorities delved into Ridgway's past and discovered an unhealthy attitude towards women, including being attracted to his mother, and that he was living a double life. Interestingly, police used serial killer Ted Bundy, who was incarcerated, as a consultant on the case.
There's nothing like a woman scorned. The case of Stephanie Lazarus seems right out of the Fatal Attraction film. A man named John Ruetten was dating Lazarus, a bright UCLA student who worked with the LAPD, while also dating a woman named Sherri Rasmussen. Ruetten ended up marrying Rasmussen in 1986 and the love triangle didn't sit well with Lazarus. Jilted, she stalked the other woman and eventually killed her. Ruetten found his wife badly beaten and shot three times in the chest. The scene was staged to look like a robbery, which threw police off. 26 years later, they connected an overlooked bite mark on the victim's arm—with DNA—and fingered Lazarus. During the trial, Ruetten admitted to seeing both women and how it affected Lazarus. "Here's the deal," he testified. "It was clear she was very upset that I was getting married and moving on."
John Samuel Tessier
It seemed that the oldest cold case solved in America happened in 2008. Janet Tessier wrote an email to the Illinois State Police based upon a deathbed confession her mother had made 14 years earlier in regards to an unsolved child disappearance in 1957. “A 7-year-old child named Maria Ridulph vanished. Her remains were found in another county several miles away in early spring of 1958. I still believe that John Samuel Tessier from Sycamore, IL . . . was and is responsible for her death.” John was the mother's brother. He had been questioned by FBI at the time but he passed a polygraph test and had an alibi.
Following the new confession, authorities reopened the case. They now had a long history of sexual abuse claims against John. They also had damning testimony from a young girl who was approached by the suspect when he took Maria and jailhouse informants who claimed he confessed to them. At the age of 75, John (aka John Tessier McCullough) was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison.
Update: Earlier this year, a judge found McCullough innocent due to evidence supporting his alibi. There was also allegations of possible misconduct and evidence manipulation.
[Photo: Oxygen, Pexels]