A criminal investigation is deemed cold when there are no leads or further evidence from which to extract information, putting the case in a state of limbo. The availability of new technology and the reexamination of old evidence with fresh eyes can change everything. Some cold cases are solved within a couple of years; others can take over half a century. For true crime readers who can't resist an investigation full of twists and turns, we’ve rounded up eight of the best books about cold cases that appeared to have hit a dead end, but were eventually solved.
When a body riddled with gunshots was found on Daytona Beach in December of 1989, the investigation led to several dead ends, and it was considered a cold case six months later. The following spring and summer, the bodies of six middle-aged white men were found—with no suspects or leads. While the police speculated that these murders were connected, they soon found that they were the work of Aileen Wuornos. Wuornos’ shocking past soon came to light as they learned more about the first woman to fit the serial killer profile.
The Michigan Murders
In the late 1960s, a serial killer terrorized southeastern Michigan. The bodies of seven college-aged women were found to be stabbed, tortured, and mutilated. After several avenues of investigation fell through, the police turned to a seemingly charming and all-American fraternity member. In 1970, the man that the authorities called the Ypsilanti Ripper was arrested for his Midwest reign of terror.
Related: 33 True Crime Books About the World’s Most Notorious Serial Killers
This book traces back the work done by determined Texas lawmen to capture a serial child killer who stalked and murdered three young girls. Bogeyman looks at the efforts and procedures used to bring down the culprit, who was revealed to be a man by the name of David Elliot Penton.
You'll Never Find My Body
Los Angeles detectives were left with few ways to pursue the case of Ann Racz. It was clear to them that John Racz was the reason for his wife’s disappearance in 1991, but with no physical evidence, the investigation stalled, and the case went cold. In 2005, a prosecutor defied the legal institution and attempted to prove that John killed his wife beyond a reasonable doubt—without a body for evidence.
In December of 1957, two little girls were approached by a man offering them piggyback rides. One girl left to retrieve her mittens. When she returned, both the man and her friend were gone. The search for the missing girl and her kidnapper gained national attention, and the case wouldn’t be solved for another 55 years.
Related: 14 Chilling True Crime Books About Real-Life Kidnappings
I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer
This New York Times bestseller details Michelle McNamara’s engrossing hunt for one of the most well-known serial killers of the 20th century. A true crime journalist and the creator of the popular website TrueCrimeDiary.com, McNamara was determined to find the Golden State Killer, who murdered at least 13 people. Now considered a true crime classic, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark renewed interest in the case and was an integral part of pinpointing the Golden State Killer, who was apprehended in 2018.
Related: Gone in the Dark: The 40-Year Hunt for the Golden State Killer
The Lowcountry Murder of Gwendolyn Elaine Fogle: A Cold Case Solved
When Gwendolyn Elaine Fogle was murdered in 1978, the evidence sat collecting dust in the Walterboro Police Department. Special Agent Lieutenant Rita Shuler worked on the case throughout her career with the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division. She became interested in the case, and the fascination continued even after she retired in 2001.
In May of 2015, Lieutenant Shuler and Corporal Gean Johnson uncovered key evidence that had been overlooked for nearly 40 years. With the help of new technology for DNA and fingerprinting, they were able to solve the case in four months.
Stories Of Hope: Cold Case Mysteries That Were Finally Solved
This book features 15 cold cases that were solved, in a testament to the determination of the professionals who didn't rest until they brought the culprits to justice. Many of the cases were reopened and reexamined using newer technology that has become available to authorities in recent years. Featuring lesser-known cases, this book includes the murders of Sara Lynn Wineski, Sophie Sergei, and Roberto Caraballo.
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