By Marissa Alter
WINNEBAGO COUNTY (WREX) - If you're a fan of TV crime dramas, you're used to police catching their suspect in less than an hour. But in the real world, the search for answers takes longer. Sometimes it never ends. Tonight 13 News looks at how investigators work a cold case when it seems they've reached a dead end.
"I've been through deaths of loved ones and family members, but this hollowness, this emptiness, it's unexplainable." Michael Delgado's son Alex is one of the cold case murders under review by the Winnebago County Sheriff's Office.
There are 16 more--like Sandra Daniels, her bones were found near Durand nearly three years ago; Lottie Flowers, murdered in her home in 2002; Tammy Tracey, disappeared in 1987, found dead in a forest preserve 11 months later.
"We have a list here. It's a homicide list. Every time we have a homicide, we update it," explains Winnebago County Sheriff Dick Meyers.
The list goes back to 1966. It's a way to make sure victims like Connie Hounsell don't get forgotten.
"Quite often we'll go through it and see where it says 'not solved,' and we'll pick it up again and send leads out and go back and retalk to people, talk to witnesses--anyone who had any involvement in the case when it was first reported," Meyers says. "We go back and redo that."
It takes patience. Sometimes efforts pay off. Meyers recalls Anna and Lloyd Schrader, an elderly couple shot in their Pecatonica home in 1976. Investigators talked to hundreds of people over and over again. After seven years: new information. Within two weeks, the case was solved
Dep. Chief Dominic Iasparro takes us to the site of one of the more recent unsolved murders. "This goes back to November of '08, November 20 of '08. There was a report of--actually it was in this area over here--a garbage bag, a black garbage bag. Actually, it turned out to be two bags. A person driving by saw what turned out to be a body in the bags."
Detectives believe the victim in this case, Marcario Amaya, was killed elsewhere, dumped in the parking lot of the old Mi Casa Bar in the middle of the night.
"There's no known witnesses to it," Iasparro states. "It's very difficult to solve these crimes. But again, the cases are never put down. They're always active. And any information that comes in is developed and continuously worked on."
Amaya's file, along with the other unsolveds, sits in the detective division, ready to go. Investigators say the key to moving these cases to storage is the public.
"It's rare that only the killer knows he was involved in a case. There's family members. There's friends. There's people with suspicions. And that's the key to solving the unsolved case. Find that one particular person or that one particular piece of physical evidence that's going to link a suspect."
In fact, investigators may already have that necessary proof but not the technology to use it.
Deputy Michael Pearson has been a crime scene technician for 12 years. During that time, forensics has come a long way.
"Initially it took a pretty good quantity of DNA, such as a dime-sized area of blood, to where it's at now where a partial strand of DNA may be recovered, just a small fragment," Pearson explains.
New science means investigators can go back to old cases and apply evidence from then to today's advancements.
"We also can go to a DNA analysis--what's called 'touch DNA' from a perpetrator just touching the bottle can leave behind a DNA standard possibly. Or if they consumed directly out of the bottle."
As science develops, it could help crack open old cases and maybe give closure to grieving family members like Michael Delgado.
Michael visits Alex's grave site every day. He hopes to bring Alex good news sometime in the future.
"They'll find who did it," Michael says. "It might take time but they'll find. I believe that."
If you know anything about Alex Delgado's murder or any other cold case, call the Winnebago County Detectives Bureau at (815) 319-6400. You can also leave an anonymous tip with Crime Stoppers at (815) 963-7867.
WINNEBAGO COUNTY COLD CASES
-Victim: Loretta Lyons, Case date: 06-09-66
-Victim: Robert L Simmons, Case date: 04-08-82
-Victim: Cheryl Griffin, Case date: 10-25-86
-Victim: Connie Heerdt, Case date: 01-15-91
-Victim: David Franks, Case date: 12-05-95
-Victim: Daniel Meyers, Case date: 04-30-98
-Victim: Lottie Flowers, Case date: 02-23-02
-Victim: Caleb Taylor, Case date: 07-01-04
-Victim: Leanne Taylor, Case date: 12-06-04
-Victim: Alexander Delgado, Case date: 7-22-07
-Victim: Michelle Almquist, Case date: 11-02-07
-Victim: Macario Amaya, Case date: 11-20-08
-Victim: Constance Hounsell, Case date: 12-27-08
JOINT INVESTIGATIONS WITH OTHER POLICE DEPARTMENTS
-Victim: Tammy Tracey, Case date: 04-15-88, Rockford Police and Sheriffs Office
-Victim: Frances Bloomfield, Case date: 09-22-97, Assist Iowa City Police
-Victim: Deangelo Williams, Case date: 05-05-01, Assist Rockford Police
-Victim: Sandra Daniels, Case date: 01-07-07, Assist Wisconsin Police
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