A state legislative committee is working on a bill draft that would require local law enforcement agencies to report information about their cold cases to the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation.
DCI would use the information to “develop and maintain a cold case database” for Wyoming, the bill draft states.
Currently, DCI has no way of knowing how many cold cases exist in the state because “local jurisdictions are not required to report that to us,” Wyoming Division of Victim Services director Cara Chambers told the legislature’s Joint Judiciary Committee during a meeting this week.
That lack of information makes it difficult to determine what resources would be needed to begin addressing the backlog of cold cases in Wyoming, she explained.
Investigative Genetic Genealogy
Chambers added that the state is also learning more about the potential to use investigative genetic genealogy (IGG) to solve cold cases.
State officials heard a presentation several weeks ago from a company that offers IGG services, DCI commander Ryan Cox said.
Now, Chambers said, the state is “waiting on proposals” from IGG companies showing “how much does that cost” and “what does that look like” – so it’s still “a tad early for us to throw out numbers.”
Chambers was responding to questions about the funding allocation that might need to accompany another Judiciary Committee bill draft, this one letting DCI hire retired peace officers to assist with cold case investigations.
The bill notes that DCI is required to take on cold cases that are referred by the Wyoming Attorney General, but the agency has the discretion to accept or reject cold cases referred by local law enforcement agencies.
Wyoming Sen. Ed Cooper, R-Ten Sleep, wondered if language should be added to the bill requiring local law enforcement agencies to turn their cold cases over to DCI after a certain period of time.
He was referring to a previous committee discussion about law enforcement agencies that “are reluctant to turn their cases over,” resulting in some cases “lying there as much as 10 or 12 years, where they don’t get into the DCI’s hands where they can actually look at it.”
No amendments were made to that effect this week, but the committee did modify the bill draft to define a “cold case” as one that has remained unsolved for at least one year, as opposed to three.
The committee didn’t approve either bill this week, instead voting to hold both proposals over until their next meeting, when they might have a better idea about the funding required to support the proposals.
The committee’s next meeting is scheduled to take place Nov. 6-7 in Douglas.