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Published: Monday, 12/4/2006

U.S. grant extends reach of long arm of the law

BY CHRISTINA HALL
BLADE STAFF WRITER

A few months ago, the Lucas County Cold Case Task Force traveled to Florida to meet with the ex-wife and daughter of a man who last week was charged in connection with a 39-year-old murder.

Investigators interviewed the women and collected samples containing their DNA that were used in a reverse paternity test. The test found DNA compatible with semen found in the underwear of 14-year-old Eileen Adams, who was kidnapped, raped, and murdered in 1967.

The trip which led to an aggravated murder warrant against Robert Baxter Bowman in the slaying may not have been possible without a $109,000 federal grant the cold case squad received last year.

[The grant] kind of opens the horizon for us a little bit, said Tom Ross, a member of the squad and an investigator in the county prosecutor s office.

The grant also covered expenses in the high-profile murder cases of Gerald Robinson, who was convicted in May for the 1980 slaying of Sister Margaret Ann Pahl in a hospital sacristy, and truck driver Dellmus Colvin, who has been linked to the deaths of six prostitutes.

The grant was supposed to expire at the end of the year, but last week authorities learned it will be extended through June.

The task force won t receive more money, but it will have more time to use the dollars to investigate unsolved murders and sexual assaults in which DNA evidence is available.

We have 200 or 300 unsolved murders. The goal is to go through all of them and see if there s DNA evidence to test, said Toledo police Sgt. Steve Forrester, a task force member.

The grant covers many areas: expert witnesses in trials; travel for the witnesses and investigators; overtime for investigators, such as conducting interviews on evenings and weekends, and specialty lab work.

There is evidence sitting down there in property rooms that needs to be taken to the labs and analyzed and could lead to a suspect and ultimately a conviction, said Toledo police Detective Bart Beavers, who is on the cold case squad.

The grant also pays for a contracted person with a master s degree in law enforcement to work 20 hours a week to organize old case files and property lists and to recognize evidence that can be tested, Sergeant Forrester said. He said it can take 20 hours just to organize one case.

The cold case squad has been organized for about six years and has solved about 40 cases.

Toledo Police Chief Mike Navarre said he would like to find a way to commit more resources to the squad because of its success, and he said the federal government needs to provide more funding.

If we increase the number of success stories by increasing the number of personnel, I think it s something we should do, he said. There s hundreds of families out there just like Eileen Adams . They would like to see justice prevail.

Before the federal grant, the cold case squad operated through money in the police and prosecutor s budgets. The federal funds relieve those agencies which have limited budgets of some of the expenses.

Mr. Ross said the squad will continue to operate when the federal dollars run out, but it may curtail some of the out-of-town investigations.

The Ohio Attorney General s Office, which administers the federal grant, will apply for grants as they become available, spokesman Bob Beasley said. The proof is in the results as with [the Adams] case and other cases, he said. It is helping to aid these investigations. Suspects are being able to be identified years after the crime.

The money the Lucas County cold case squad received is part of a nearly $662,000 grant that was divided among task forces in Ohio. Lucas, Summit, and Montgomery counties received their portions in June, 2005.

In September, six other task forces including one in Wood County received $10,000 each. The remaining $60,000 recently went to a newly formed task force in Cuyahoga County, Mr. Beasley said.

He said numerous cases have been aided by the grant.

Detective Beavers said the Lucas County cold case squad may solve one or two more cases by the end of the year.

Contact Christina Hall at: chall@theblade.com or 419-724-6007.



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