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Amarillo cold case investigators discuss tactics, technology

Amarillo cold case investigators said technology and having fresh eyes look over a case, can help find new leads. (ABC 7 Amarillo-Tiffany Lester)

Cold cases can be some of the toughest to work on.

With nearly two dozen combined cold cases across Potter and Randall counties, investigators and detectives deal with the heavy weight of trying to solve these crimes with no new leads.

Roberto Vasquez, Sherry Mondragon and Don Lutz are just a few of the men and women killed in Potter and Randall counties whose cases, dating back to 1992, have gone cold.

Their names are among 13 others listed on the Amarillo Crime Stoppers website.

“When you exhaust all leads that exist, it's frustrating for sure to say that we're at a point where we don't know where to go any further,” said Amarillo Police Department Lieutenant Erick Bohannon.

Bohannon said a lot of paperwork and focus goes into investigating cold cases, which causes the search effort to take time.

“I know that families get frustrated. I know that they believe things aren't being done on that case when they are being done. However, there can be many, many years between things happening and so that for the families just prolongs what I would say would be agonizing for them,” said Bohannon.

Sergeant Steven White walked ABC 7 News reporters through the Criminal Investigation Division at the Potter County Sheriff's Office.

He and other crime scene investigators demonstrated a hands-on lesson in their lab and showed off the various types of evidence-finding tools that can be used to catch a suspect.

“Basically, it's just this fingerprint powder, but there's these metal flakes in it. The fingerprint powder adheres to all the oils in your skin. That's what's left behind,” said PCSO Sergeant Corey Brown.

Technological advancements have made a big difference in solving some area cold cases.

“Of course, we have physical evidence,” said White. “We have DNA that's possible now that wasn't possible back 15 or 20 years ago, that we are even more conducive to law enforcement that helps and aides in these investigations. Try to imagine since 1983, we found the body of a deceased female that was approximately 17 years of age, and then 26 years later, we were able to identify it through DNA.”

Having a fresh set of eyes look at the case can also bring new ideas or leads.

“Sometimes that new fresh set of eyes will read through that report and go through the photographs and go through the evidence and they may find something that they think of that we might have been able to do back then that we can do now,” said Bohannon.

At the Randall County Sheriff's Office, Lieutenant Pat Williams said they have a solve rate of about 70 percent on cases.

He tells ABC 7 News they only have one cold case right now involving a missing person from 2010.

“Used to, we were getting tips every now and then on it, none of them ever came to fruition and it's been almost two years now since we had any information come in on him,” said Williams.

The detectives all said it's incredibly frustrating to not be able to give the families of victims the justice their loved ones deserve.

“I can't imagine how they feel. You have to internalize that and put yourselves in their shoes and when you do, it breaks your heart. There's no other word for it. A loved one you've cherished has passed away and a heinous act, homicide. It's passed on and passed on for generations,” said White.

They say being a cold case investigator takes certain types of personality traits, such as determination and perseverance, to continue investigating these cases despite the lack of leads.

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