Behind The Story: Cold Cases

Aug 26, 2020 | 2020 Articles, Mysteryrat's Maze

by Jennifer Graeser Dornbush

Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of Hole in the Woods by Jennifer Graeser Dornbush and a link to purchase it. .

What is a cold case?
A case is considered cold if the crime has not been solved after one year of when the offense occurred.

Why did Shannon Sider’s case, the true crime case Hole in the Woods is based on, grow cold?
From what I know and have learned about Shannon’s case, I can point to a couple reasons why it went cold.

First, Shannon’s body was not found until three months after her murder. Most of the biological evidence, even her own, was very deteriorated. Of the very small traces of DNA found from her remains, none was able to be linked to anyone but Shannon. And of course, when she was killed in 1989, DNA science was very new and you needed a lot more of it to test for DNA than you do nowadays. With no physical evidence present, it was impossible to make a connection to Shannon and her killers.

Jennifer Graeser Dornbush

Second, investigators spent hundreds of hours interviewing Shannon’s friends, family, and those last seen with her. Over 460 interviews! At the time there was never any probable cause to make an arrest. Investigators could not find any direct or circumstantial evidence that would give them the ability to make an arrest in Shannon’s killing.

Third, the lead investigator on Shannon’s case believed for a short time after her father reported her missing that she might still be alive. Police also had reason to believe she had run away and was in hiding. Weeks of time passed after Shannon went missing that investigators just didn’t give her disappearance the credence it deserved.

Why do other cases grow cold?
There are many factors that might render a case to remain unsolved. Maybe there wasn’t enough evidence surrounding the crime or victim? Maybe the case was not investigated properly at the onset? Maybe all the leads pointed to a false direction where time and energy was used up, allowing other leads to disappear or cover their tracks?

On the law enforcement side, the main contributors to a case growing cold are time, resources, and commitment to these cases.

By commitment I mean the amount of time and the priority a law enforcement agency and investigators are able to allot to cold cases. Police priority gives focus on present and future crimes so as to deal with today’s events and prevent tomorrow’s. Continuing investigation on crimes in the distant past naturally takes a back seat, simply out of daily task priority.

Lack of funding is another big obstacle facing police departments when it comes to the investigation of cold cases. There isn’t enough money to invest in old cases, and only about 18% of the nation’s 18,000+ police agencies actually have a cold case unit.

Lack of resources, meaning both lack of investigators and cold case protocol is the third challenge. Only 20% of those 18% of cold case units actually have proper protocols in place to guide them through the process in the most effective way.

The national average of solved homicides is 64%. Only 36% of homicides are solved annually since 1980 (FBI Uniform Crime Report). This paints a bleak picture for crime solving across the country.

But this is where the Cold Case Foundation is filing that gap!

What exactly is The Cold Case Foundation?
The CCF is what I call the Avengers of cold case solving. Each new cold case brought to the CCF is assigned a super power team of seasoned professionals from the forensic field and law enforcement who volunteer their time and expertise to those hardest to solve cases.

The mission of the CCF is to “stop the deadly compounding effect of cold cases and provide hope and resources to families affected by violent crime. The Cold Case Foundation is devoted to raising public awareness and creating partnerships to assist and provide law enforcement whatever resources are needed to bring about closure.”

Why are you partnering with The Cold Case Foundation?
As a crime fiction writer, I view crime solving for its story and entertainment value, but I’ve always felt that it is essential to give back something positive to the real-life crime fighting world and the real life crime fighters (aka the TRUE heroes and heroines). I chose the CCF because they share my personal mission “to shed hope and light into the darkest recesses of the human experience.”

My work with the CCF primarily involves being a public ambassador for them and working as an educator for their Victim Prevention Training, which teaches people in all walks of life how to significantly lower their risk of becoming a victim of a violent crime.

I am also donating a portion of the sales from Hole in the Woods to the CCF.

Learn More at

To enter to win a copy of Hole in the Woods, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “hole,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen September 5, 2020. U.S. residents only, and you must be 18 or older to enter. If you are entering via email please include you mailing address in case you win, it will be deleted after the contest. You can read our privacy statement here if you like. BE AWARE THAT IT WILL TAKE MUCH LONGER THAN USUAL FOR WINNERS TO GET THEIR BOOKS DUE TO THE CURRENT CRISIS.

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Disclosure: This post contains links to an affiliate program, for which we receive a few cents if you make purchases. KRL also receives free copies of most of the books that it reviews, that are provided in exchange for an honest review of the book.


  1. A local cold case was just solved
    several weeks ago. Another
    that was finally solved saw the
    murdered sentenced to life.
    Would love to try this story.

  2. I love reading cold cases they are very interesting to me!

  3. We have a winner!


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