Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Criminal Justice

First Advisor

James E. Hooker


No department or individual involved in the investigation of homicides is ever going to have a 100% closure rate. Therefore, many departments will be faced with a situation where another homicide happens before they are finished handling the previous one.

How does one manage these open cases; how often are they reviewed; and who is responsible once the assigned detective is either transferred or leaves the unit or department? Someone has to be able to answer questions from the family, media and anyone else who might inquire about the case.

Based on the number of unsolved homicide cases within Fairfax County, the concept of a “Cold Case Squad” was explored. During January 1995, the Fairfax County Police Department implemented a Cold Case Squad consisting of one supervisor, three veteran detectives, two auxiliary police officers and one cadet. The Cold Case detectives inherited approximately 75 unsolved homicides which occurred in Fairfax County, Virginia, from 1964 through December 31, 1994. More than half of the unsolved homicides (42) have occurred in the past nine years.

The hypothesis for this thesis was: The formulation of a Cold Case Squad would measurably reduce the number of unresolved homicides within Fairfax County. The primary evaluation factor for the thesis was the Cold Case Squad’s “close-ability” rate.

The thesis identified and evaluated nine solvability factors utilized by the Cold Case Squad Supervisor. The solvability factors are considered when prioritizing case investigation, assigning personnel to an investigation and suspending investigate efforts. One of the goals for utilizing solvability factors is to develop a clear profile of cases with the most potential for close-ability.

The study population for this thesis is the 42 unsolved homicides which have occurred in Fairfax County, Virginia, between January 1, 1986, and December 31, 1994. Solvability factor work sheets were completed and computated for the study population.

The hypothesis has been proven as there is a measurable reduction in the number of unsolved homicides. From the study population, two cases have been closed by arrest, one case closed by exceptional means and one case is pending approval from the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office to obtain arrest warrants. These four cases represent a 9.5% reduction of unsolved cases within the study population.

A copy of this thesis was given to the Cold Case Squad Supervisor for review and application. It is hoped the research from this thesis will be applied to the Cold Case Squad so it will become more effective and continue to turn the liability of time into an asset.


Scanned, with permission from the author, from the original print version, which resides in University Archives.


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