Sometimes, all it takes is a phone call -- even an anonymous one -- to change an unsolved homicide from a cold case into a case closed.
And phone calls are what state and local officials hope will result from a new statewide database of Ohio's unsolved homicides.
Compiled by the Bureau of Criminal Investigation, a division of the Ohio attorney general's office, the database is the first to collect unsolved cases across Ohio in one spot and make them available to the public. The database will let law enforcement put out details on murder cases that have gone cold and help the public give information that might lead to solving them.
"We want to encourage each and every department in Ohio to get cases into the database," Roger Davis said. He is a special agent in the Bureau of Criminal Investigation's southwest special investigations unit. "Not only are we hoping to generate tips and information but also make a place available to law enforcement where they can search if they come across information."
To view a list of Ohio's unsolved homicides, go to: www.ohioattorneygeneral.gov/ohiounsolvedhomicides.
To submit a tip, call 855-BCI-OHIO or email email@example.com.
Tips can also be submitted through the attorney general's Web site.
The database is on the attorney general's Web site. To date, 163 of Ohio's approximate 5,000 unsolved homicides dating to the 1960s are in the system. The most recent case dates to late June of this year.
Mr. Davis said the database will include any homicide or questionable death that remains unsolved and for which officials have no apparent leads.
In Toledo, facts about the 2000 strangulation of 19-year-old Chrishana Logan are among the cases.
Toledo police Detective Bart Beavers of the cold-case unit said Ms. Logan's case is a perfect example of a homicide in which an anonymous tip could mean the difference. He noted that DNA found at the scene matched DNA involved in two unrelated rape cases. Anyone recognizing the sketch of the suspect made from information given by the rape victims could help police locate Ms. Logan's killer, he said.
"In some of these cases, we just need information to put us in the right direction. That's all the police need," Detective Beavers said, noting that often those who give tips don't testify, especially those who offer information anonymously.
Detective Beavers said Toledo has about 300 unsolved homicides. Only 19 have been entered into the database, but he plans to add the rest.
Sylvania has one unsolved case in the database; Williams County has two cases. So far, no cases have been added from surrounding counties such as Fulton, Wood, and Ottawa.
Lucas County Sheriff's Detective Jeff Kozak was among those who investigated the asphyxiation deaths of a Springfield Township couple in 2011. Although a man has been convicted, Detective Kozak said investigators believe others were involved "This is a unique case. You're not going to have a lot of ones like this, fortunately," Detective Kozak said of the case in which Lisa Straub, 20, and Johnny Clarke, 21, were found with bags over their heads and duct tape around their necks and wrists.
Samuel Williams, 24, of Toledo was convicted of two counts each of aggravated murder and kidnapping and one count of aggravated burglary and sentenced earlier this month to two consecutive life terms in prison.
Testimony at his trial revealed that DNA from at least three other people was found at the scene. The case remains open.
Officials from the Bureau of Criminal Investigation said information for the database must come from law enforcement but the public is asked to contact police or the sheriff's department to bring a case to their attention. Available on the database are the name, photograph, and birth date of the victim, plus the date of the homicide and facts of the case. Those with information can email, call, or give information anonymously through the Web site.
"We have received nothing but positive reviews when we go to agencies with this," Mr. Davis said. "I think it gives a sense that the case is never going to be forgotten and it reaches a wider range of population in Ohio."
Contact Erica Blake at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-13-2134.