Fold mountains

Mystery in the Mountains: New Tool Rewrites Cold Cases

When a homicide case goes cold, the chances of it being solved are slim.

According to Alex Baber, director of Cold Case Consultants of Americasince 1980, only one percent of more than 250,000 cold cases have been solved and resulted in a conviction.

“Let that sink in for a moment,” said Baber, who started Cold Case Consultants of America during the COVID-19 pandemic. But, he says, the organization took years to form.

“We’re told we’re literally rewriting history as we know it,” Baber said.

Baber and his wife, J-Lynn, have created a unique linguistic database of letters written by suspects in cold cases spanning over five decades.

“I had this thought six years ago,” he said. “I had the old software, and one day I just said, ‘Look what if I put all this in and then run the spectrum,’ and now that we’ve created this database, we can cross-check all of that and it’s within the touch of our fingertips,” Baber said. “Everything mentioned in the letters has substance or they wouldn’t put it in there, would they?

The Cold Case Consultants database has been used on a number of cases, including a case from Ohio that dates back to the 1970s. Over the course of two decades, hundreds of threatening letters have been sent anonymously to people living in Circleville, just outside of Columbus. A woman, Vicki L. Koch, was killed.

“The database is what prompted us to go to this file to find the letters,” he said. “And the letters, once we put them in, are what directed us to the evidence.”

Baber is also using the database to investigate the disappearance of Maura Murray, a University of Massachusetts student who disappeared in 2004 after a car accident in Haverhill, New Hampshire.

Police say Murray left campus after withdrawing $280 from an ATM. She had told her teachers that she would not be in class because of a death in the family. Instead, Murray packed a bag of clothes, toiletries and makeup and left. Nobody knows where.

No one has yet been charged in Murray’s disappearance and police have not named a suspect in the case.

“With the technology available on our end, I believe we will be able to find Maura,” Baber said. “I really believe it.”

A team from Cold Case Consultants plans to travel to the crash site with a machine created by Dr. Arpad Vass, a forensic anthropologist and researcher. The device detects signs of decomposition in the air.

“Let’s say they’re under debris or brush or even the buried decay of the cells is releasing this gas that his machine is actually picking up,” Baber said.