But considering only seven people make up the team, the caseload seems nearly impossible. Two full-time sheriff’s detectives, two full-time San Bernardino County District Attorney deputies, a full-time DA investigator and a retired part-time investigator make up the Sheriff's Specialized Investigations Division Homicide Detail, which is overseen by Sgt. Greg Myler.
The job is not for the faint of heart, Myler admits. Working these investigations proves to be extremely tough, said Myler, who took the helm earlier this year but is not a stranger to the cold case team.
Myler was the first detective assigned to the team in 2008, along with his partner of four years Det. Robert Alexander. Myler said in the four years the two worked as cold case detectives, they solved 19 murders. Since the cold case division was established in April 2008, detectives have solved 37 cold cases, some dating back to the 1950s, Myler said.
Myler said the detectives are expected to carry a caseload of four to eight investigations that they work on a daily basis. He said the detectives are allowed to pick and choose which cases they will work on.
“I want the detectives to be fully invested and interested in the investigations rather than me forcing them to work on a specific case,” Myler said. “I think it gives them the an investment and (they) really buy into the investigations because they chose to work that case for whatever reason.
"The team we have is hard working and they do everything they possibly can to help solve a case. These individuals want to be on the team, we don’t make them work these investigations. They weren’t assigned to work cold cases. I strongly feel it is more difficult to work on a cold case than it is to work on a fresh homicide.”
On a daily basis the detectives will be reading the case files, following up on possible fingerprint and DNA hits and trying to establish other ways to find new leads. One of the common obstacles the team faces is conducting interviews with witnesses.
“It takes time. So in order to do things efficiently we start identifying interviews for all of our cases and pin them on a map,” Myler said.
Once several interviews are identified and in a relatively close proximity, the detective will submit a travel request, where they outline the interviews they want to conduct, where they are and the itinerary.
When conducting these interviews, Myler said they do “cold knocks.”
“We don’t let the subject know we are coming,” he said. “We do cold knocks so that we have the advantage by not allowing them to think about what they want to say when we get there.”
Cold case investigations can take a toll on investigators. Especially when they form some sort of bond with a victim’s family, Myler said.
“Of course each detective handles those things differently,” Myler said. “There are times as a detective you build some bond with the family members. As a detective your goal is to solve a case. A detective wants to help bring closure to the family by justice. The last thing we want to tell a family is that we couldn't solve the crime.”
One of the country's most high-profile cold case investigations involves the death of April Beth Pitzer, who was last seen in Newberry Springs in June 2004. Investigators believe Pitzer was murdered, but her body has yet to be found. She was declared legally dead in 2012.
Pitzer was 30 years old when she was last seen alive, days before she was to return to her native Arkansas. Her mother, Gloria Denton, believes April was ordered killed by a drug dealer and her body was buried in an abandoned mine in the desert.
Denton has visited the area several times attempting to locate her daughter's remains and feels certain they were buried in one particular mine she has been inside. Some of Pitzer's clothing was found in a mine shaft in Ludlow in 2005, but nothing else.
But Denton now believes April's remains were moved last year, loaded on a small plane in Ludlow and perhaps dropped over the desert somewhere between Ludlow and Flagstaff, Arizona. The plane Denton is referring to eventually crashed in the mountains of Colorado and all on board were killed. Denton believes the person who ordered April's murder was on that plane, though she is not convinced he is dead. Authorities identified the man as one of the victims of the crash, though the National Transportation Safety Board has not yet completed its investigation.
"I pray somebody will see this and call and say, 'Gloria, I moved her body,'" Denton said. "And then I'll be OK."
Denton said Pitzer has two daughters. "Her oldest will turn 18 in August and the youngest just turned 16," she said. "They want to go and put flowers on their mom's grave."
"The case is not closed, it is still active and Det. (Marc) Goodwin speaks to Gloria Denton frequently," Sheriff's Department spokeswoman Cindy Bachman said in an email. "There were several searches done by our department personnel and search-and-rescue volunteers, and many people were interviewed in the early stages of the missing person investigation, however no evidence was located that determined her whereabouts.
"Unfortunately, over the years no new information or leads have surfaced that would confirm any of the information referred to (by Gloria Denton). Detective Goodwin would like nothing more than to move forward and solve this case. Goodwin asks anyone, even those that were interviewed years ago, if they have information related to the case to contact him directly at 909-387-3589 or firstname.lastname@example.org."
Read more here: http://www.vvdailypress.com
Members of the San Juan County and La Plata County search and rescue teams at the scene of the plane crash on September 7th. The Colorado Air National Guard helicopter that airlifted them to the remote location is in the background.
The location where Harold Raggio kept his Cessna 310H.
FAA Flight Standards District Office: FAA Salt Lake City FSDO-07
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, September 05, 2015 in Silverton, CO
Aircraft: CESSNA 310H, registration: N1099Q
Injuries: 4 Fatal.
This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.
On September 5, 2015, about 1408 mountain daylight time, a Cessna 310H, N1099Q, impacted mountainous terrain at an elevation of about 11,500 feet mean sea level near Silverton, Colorado, based upon preliminary radar information consistent with the flight. Two non-instrument, single-engine land rated private pilots and two passengers were fatally injured. The airplane was destroyed by impact forces. The airplane was registered to and operated by the registered pilot under 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a personal flight that was not operating on a flight plan and was not utilizing flight following services by air traffic control. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. The flight last departed from Flagstaff Pulliam Airport, Flagstaff, Arizona. and was destined to Amarillo, Texas.
Those who may have information that might be relevant to the National Transportation Safety Board investigation may contact them by email email@example.com, and any friends and family who want to contact investigators about the accident should email firstname.lastname@example.org.