Special Reports

Badge and Gown

A few weeks ago, I wrote about using the resources of Penn State to help investigate the disappearance of former Centre County District Attorney Ray Gricar.  Use Penn State   A fellow blogger, Slamdunk, sent me an article about the police in Missouri using students at Columbia College in the same way I suggested. 


            Police in the town Columbia, Missouri work with students in a course called “Cold Case Homicide” to solve cold homicide cases; the course is an elective for student in forensic and criminal justice majors.  According to the article, the six students in the class review all the reports, cross referenced them, and develop a timeline of events.   

            They have proven to be effective.  There current activities covered the case of Carolyn Williams, who was murdered more than 20 years ago.  While the students have not solved the case, they winnowed the suspect list from six to two prime suspects.   They also determined what evidence would likely yield DNA results (though they are not the ones doing the testing).

            Three years ago, a prior class had even more success.  They helped find the remains of Mary Nobles, who had disappeared twenty years before, which helped incriminate her killer.

            Columbia College is not a large university.  It has, at its main campus, 1200 day students, 3000 evening students, and 600 post graduate students (it has a number of branches across the nation, many associated with the military, and about 10,000 online students).  Perhaps its most famous alumni are actor Arliss Howard, Congresswoman Judy Baker, and Sally Rand (Yes, that Sally Rand, the fan dancer from the twenties and thirties.  Those of you over seventy get the reference.) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Columbia_College_(Columbia,_Missouri)  Penn State’s University Park Campus is about nine times larger.

            The Columbia Police detective in charge of the case, John Short, noted how hard it was to focus on cold case with an ongoing caseload.  He also said, “It's nice to have a fresh set of eyes go through these cases. Sometimes, they find something we missed, and if they do, we're all for it." 

“Fresh Set of eyes,” is a term we’ve heard before in the Gricar case.  Penn State is a resource that may prove valuable in the Gricar case and is untapped; it has virtually no cost to the taxpayer.  It remains an unturned stone in the Gricar case.

A happy Independence Day to everyone.