My colleague Ken Raymond has an interesting story in today’s paper about a new law that gives the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation the authority to share cold case files with people outside of law enforcement. From Ken’s story:
Jerry Beaty was on an island paradise when he learned his world had gone to hell.
“I got a phone call at 9 o’clock in the morning on February 1st and was told that my house had burned, everything I owned was gone, my wife was dead and both my dogs were dead,” he said Wednesday. “I literally had nothing left but the suitcases I had with me.”
Beaty, a scuba expert, was on Grand Cayman in the western Caribbean in 2005, inspecting damage left behind by Hurricane Ivan several months before. His wife, Shawn Beaty, 50, had stayed at their Bryan County home.
Just like that, she was dead. His wife succumbed to smoke inhalation. The blaze that killed her, Jerry Beaty later learned, was set intentionally, making her the victim of a homicide.
For more than five years, her case has gone unsolved. Beaty has pushed for answers — hiring a private investigator, working with authorities, launching a successful petition drive to get his wife’s case before a grand jury — but no one has been arrested.
Now he’s getting help from an unlikely source. The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation announced Wednesday it has turned over records from the case to the Cold Case Investigative Research Institute at Auburn University-Montgomery.
“Cold cases … are so labor-intensive,” said Jessica Brown, OSBI spokeswoman. “Any help we can get on a case such as this, we’ll take. We’ve talked to people. We’ve done interviews. We’ve done polygraphs. But we have nothing more to go on.
You can read OSBI’s press release about the new law here.
On a related note, I came across this new website last night from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation:
It offers some basic information about unsolved murders, crimes and missing persons, as well as a searchable database to narrow the information to crimes in certain areas of Colorado. The site was launched earlier this month, said Audrey Simkins, a criminal intelligence analyst with the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, in an e-mail:
The database is a collection of unsolved homicides, long-term missing persons and unidentified remains cases in Colorado which are 3 years or more old dating back to 1970. In 2007, legislation was passed in [Colorado] which required Colorado law enforcement to provide minimal case information to the CBI for the creation of the Cold Case Database. Over the last three years the CBI has worked cooperatively with local law enforcement to ensure all the cases we are aware of meeting this criteria are included in the database. In time, I hope to have a short narrative and photograph of the victim to accompany each case listed in the database.
The OSBI has an “Unsolved Cases” page, too. It lists more than 20 cases, although there’s no mention of the most recent high-profile unsolved cases such as the killing of a pastor in Anadarko or the shooting of two girls in Weeletka.
Of course, it’s always a tricky balancing act for investigators to offer information about unsolved crimes. Some details might be known by only the perpetrators, while other details might help people come forward with new information. Colorado’s Simkins discussed that dilemma in her e-mail to me:
One thing we have to remember is that these cases are all unsolved. That being said, we must be cautious about the type of information we release in regards to these cases so that one day in the future we might be able to successfully prosecute the perpetrator and bring some resolution to the families. That is why working closely with our local law enforcement was so important during the development of this site.
Colorado’s site could offer a model for other states like Oklahoma in collecting cold case information in one place.
Written by Paul Monies