Judiciary Committee wants better data, more staff for unsolved homicides, missing persons cases in Wyoming

State lawmakers are drafting a legislative proposal to collect more information about the number of unsolved homicides and missing persons cases in Wyoming.

The Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation does not currently track those numbers, commander Matt Waldock told the Joint Judiciary Committee during a meeting last week.

By request

The DCI cold case team has participated in 39 investigations into unsolved homicides, missing persons cases, and sexual assaults since it formed in 2012, Waldock said.


But the agency only gets involved in cold cases at the request of local law enforcement, prosecutors, and state officials, DCI director Ronnie Jones explained.

Those requests sometimes come in years after a local investigation is initiated, Waldock noted – prompting Wyoming Sen. Bill Landen, R-Casper, to ask “why cases would be allowed to languish like that.”

“(Are) those local entities … really working those cases?” Landen asked, noting later that “the longer you wait before you involve state resources, the more difficult it is (to investigate).”

Waldock said he “couldn’t speak for the local agencies” but he did note that “very few … have the budget or the manpower to have somebody specifically assigned to homicide or cold case investigations solely.”


“It may be an ownership thing,” he added. “You know, a ‘they bought it, they’re going to clean it’ type thing, and they’re going to do their best to solve it.”


Wyoming Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander, wondered whether, “for whatever reason,” some local agencies might not want the state to investigate their cold cases for them.

“Is there a way to get around that opposition … if it was in the public’s interest?” he asked.


DCI can’t “just go in and swoop in and take a case,” Waldock replied, but Wyoming Rep. Art Washut, R-Casper, pointed out that citizens can contact the governor’s office to request that DCI get involved.

Wyoming Rep. Ember Oakley, R-Riverton, later questioned Case’s use of the word “opposition,” expressing her assumption that some local law enforcement agencies choose not to enlist DCI’s help because “they don’t think there are any leads” to follow up on.

“Is it actual opposition that you feel like you find in relation to bringing on your resources, or (is it) just because … maybe they don’t think there’s anything more that needs done in their analysis?” she asked the DCI officials. “What are your thoughts on … actual opposition, (or) the territorial idea, vs. just, it’s not a case they want to bring to you?”


There have been times when DCI has “felt some opposition in certain types of cases,” Jones replied, but “overall the relationships we have with the local agencies around the state is excellent.”

“What the reason is on some cases to why they don’t call right away, your guess is as good as mine,” he continued. “There’s no doubt that there’s some territorial stuff that goes on, but I’ve never felt like any agency was opposed to calling us for help. (It’s) just, you know, some agencies feel like they have the resources and the expertise to handle it on their own, and they try, and some agencies recognize quickly that they don’t – and generally those are the smaller agencies. Smaller agencies in the state tend to be very quick to call for help. The larger agencies who have more resources … tend to look at it like, ‘This is our case and we’re going to work on it and we’re going to solve it.’”

Case noted that he doesn’t “think there’s anything really nefarious” going on when local agencies decide not to contact DCI for assistance.

“People are looking at their resources and they’re deciding if it’s worth putting emphasis into something,” he agreed. “But the piece I’m bringing up is: Isn’t that why we want to (look into) this? To get a fresh set of eyes on whatever was there? … Why can’t we take a look at that?”

Landen agreed it might be useful for the state to have “just a little better, more definitive sense of what cases might be out there.”

Full-time positions

At the end of the meeting, state staffers said they would draft a bill to provide reporting on unsolved homicides and missing persons cases in Wyoming, including requirements for maintaining a database.

Another bill draft will look at options for investigating cold cases, including the ability to use retired peace officers to conduct investigations, as well as a provision for two full-time cold case positions at DCI.

Currently, DCI agents who investigate cold cases do so on a “voluntary” basis as a “second duty,” Jones explained.

“They all maintain a full caseload, (and) they’re all expected to handle their normal job duties before they handle their cold cases,” he said. “As a result of that, these cases take a long time, (because) the agents assigned simply have other things going on.”

DCI has a “cold case meeting” every 30-45 days, Jones said, and “there are times when nothing gets done” to move unsolved investigations forward in-between meetings.

“There’s just really no other way for us, at the moment, to go about putting more time into these than what we do right now,” he said.

The Judiciary Committee’s next meeting is scheduled to take place Sept. 18-19 in Casper.


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