WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Stacks of papers, boxes, shelves and rooms are filled with Palm Beach County's unsolved murders. Three hundred and forty three cases have officially gone cold.
Four detectives and a sergeant spend their days combing through black and white photos and police reports - searching for something that may have been overlooked.
There are days when the leads come easily. "Sometimes people just come to the front door and they'll call up here," said Detective Paige McCann." Otherwise, there are months and years spent agonizing. "I refuse to let it go even if it's a bad case, they say the state attorney won't take it, I'll just keep going until, I'm just like 'what else do we need," said McCann.
Their commitment is the same to crimes that happened fifty years ago, like the murder of a gas station clerk in Juno Beach as it is to more recent crimes -- like the murder of Cynthia Moffett. Moffett was shot and killed on March 23, 2006 while working at Forest Oaks Golf Club in Lake Worth.
The heartbreak is inescapable for Julie Coker, Moffett's sister. "I think about her every day. Our family is - it definitely tour our family apart," said Coker.
That is what drives Detective John Van Houten to keep digging for answers. Van Houten's dedication is what makes PBSO's cold case unit among the best of the best. So good that the team closes seven cases a year, the national average for a department is one solved cold case a year.
There are also cases like the Boca mall murders. It may be without the red solved stamp and classified as cold, but the case is still heating up. "We do have something that we're looking to follow up on as a possible lead, not only in the Gorenberg case, but also the Bocchichio murder," one detective said.
Much of the cold case team's success comes because they get more time to work on cases than other units and truly know them inside and out. The team also receives more grant money for what at times is their magic wand: DNA testing.
But their real success lies in their motivation-- their ties to the victims' families that bring the sweet thank you letters.
"It's good just to put closure to it for the family, the only reason you do it, for me, is for closure for the family, so they can put their head down at night," one detective said.
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