Cold shoulder 

Pleas for cold case units deflected by Gov. Owens

For nearly a year, Howard Morton and a handful of people in the same unfortunate boat repeatedly have asked Gov. Bill Owens to address the growing backlog of hundreds of unsolved murder cases across Colorado.

"We've written letters, some of us have called," Morton says. "We haven't gotten an answer."

Morton is the executive director of Families of Homicide Victims and Missing Persons, a nonprofit comprised of people like himself, who are frustrated that police have failed to solve the murder of a family member.

The group's research shows that over the past 35 years, 1,200 murders have gone unsolved statewide, including 76 in Colorado Springs.

In hopes of taking more killers off the streets, Morton's group is calling for the creation of so-called "cold case" units. The units, which Morton says could be run by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, would be staffed with detectives and other experts experienced in hunting down the state's most elusive killers.

But Owens' spokesman, Mark Salley, says the governor's office isn't the right venue for coordinating such efforts.

In addition, Salley says Owens doesn't recall receiving what Morton describes as a "barrage" of letters and phone calls from several members of Families of Homicide Victims and Missing Persons.

"We're not aware of any inquiry that was made or attempt that was made to contact the governor on this issue," Salley says.

He adds that Morton and other families first might try pitching their idea to the Colorado Department of Public Safety.

But Morton says his group already has spoken with key division heads inside the department, including Robert C. Cantwell, director of the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.

"The problem is serious enough," Morton says. "It is past time for the governor to pay attention to this."

He noted that the group's research on cold cases, recently completed by Michael Radelet, a University of Colorado sociology professor, shows that more than 40 unsolved murders are added to the roster statewide each year. Roughly four a year are solved.

-- Michael de Yoanna


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