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Cold Cases We Were Surprised And Relieved To See Finally Solved

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Vote up all the cold cases that were closed in unexpected ways.

Most of us love a good mystery - as long as it's in a book or a movie, and does not remain unsolved. In real life, the families of victims who have not yet found justice live in limbo. Not only do they have to live with the loss of a loved one, but justice delayed remains justice denied

This is where cold case detectives step in. They take cases that are years old, with seemingly no clues. But with DNA advancement, some sheer luck, and a ton of hard work, investigators are often successful. Here are some mysteries that were finally solved, where the victims' families got some answers, if not closure. 

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    449 VOTES

    Dutch Police Cracked A 22-Year-Old Child Murder, Tracking The Killer To His Tent In The Woods

    On August 10, 1998, 11-year-old Nicky Verstappen disappeared from a summer camp in Brunssum, Limburg, in the Netherlands. A day later, he was found deceased in a pine grove in Landgraaf, around 1.2 km (0.75 miles) away from the camp. He was naked from the waist up and his body showed signs of abuse.

    For 20 years, the investigation went forward at a slow pace, with suspects being identified but no DNA evidence tying them to the murder or the crime scene. The late Dutch crime journalist Peter R. de Vries got involved and raised monies to double the 25,000 guilders being offered by the public prosecutor's office. He also became a spokesperson for the Verstappen family, who were desperate for answers.

    Finally, in 2018, Dutch police asked people living in and around the Limburg area to volunteer their DNA. Even if none of them was the killer, they could be a relative of the person who committed the crime. More than 14,000 DNA samples were collected, and one of them hit paydirt.

    The sample came from a relative of 55-year-old Joseph Theresia Johannes "Jos" Brech, already known to be a sex offender. But Brech was nowhere to be found, although authorities were able to get his DNA from some personal items, matching the foreign DNA found on the Verstappen's body. 

    After a tip, authorities traced Brech, a survivalist, to a tent in the woods near the village of Castelltercol, north of Barcelona in Spain. He was arrested in August 2018 in Spain and extradited to the Netherlands on September 6, 2018. He was put on trial, and in November 2020, sentenced to 12 1/2 years in prison for kidnapping and other more heinous crimes.

    Brech denied having hurt the boy; he claimed he stumbled upon the body in the woods and only straightened his clothes. Because of his record as a sex offender, Brech said he quietly went his way, not reporting the body because no one would believe him.

    Both Brech and the prosecutors appealed the case. In January 2022, the Dutch court not only upheld the previous convictions but also found Brech guilty of manslaughter, sentencing him to 16 more years

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    551 VOTES

    A Woman Started A TikTok Account To Help Solve Her Sister's Murder, Leading To Her Dad's Arrest

    May 17, 2001, was supposed to be Alissa Turney's last day of school at Paradise Valley High in Phoenix, AZ. But the 17-year-old never came home, and all her family found was a note, indicating she had run away to California. At the time, her younger half-sister Sarah was 12. 

    The note read

    Dad and Sarah, When you dropped me off at school today, I decided I really am going to California. Sarah, you said you really wanted me gone - now you have it. Dad, I took $300 from you. That’s why I saved my money.

    Her stepfather, Michael Turney, who had adopted her, stated he had picked up Alissa around 11 am and taken her out for lunch, where they had argued. When they got home, she stormed to her room and he went out to run errands and pick Sarah up from her field trip. They returned to Alissa's note. 

    But Sarah did not believe the story. Almost immediately, she started a website to look for her sister, graduating to social media and finally to TikTok over the years. Despite Sarah's best efforts, the case went cold until 2006, when a man confessed to killing Alissa. The confession was a hoax, but it made the authorities examine the case again. By now, after no trace of Alissa had been found, authorities began to look into the matter with a keener eye, suspecting foul play. 

    In 2008, the police executed search warrants at the house Alissa disappeared from and found a massive stockpile of weapons, firearms, and ammunition, including 26 pipe bombs. The Arizona Republic reported it to be the largest stockpile of explosives discovered in the Phoenix Police Department's history. Turney was arrested for having illegal explosives and sentenced to 10 years in federal prison in 2010, although he was released in 2017.

    In 2019, Sarah started a TikTok channel, Voices for Justice, and received an unprecedented response in terms of followers. The growing interest in the case, as well as some new evidence coming to light, made Phoenix police submit Alissa's case to the prosecutor's office for charges against Michael Turney in June 2020.

    On August 19, 2020, a grand jury indicted him on one count of second-degree murder, and Michael Turney was arrested the next day, which Sarah gladly announced on her social media channels. A 19-year-old murder - laid to rest by a determined sister on TikTok. 

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    365 VOTES

    A Mathematics Prodigy's 'Suicide' Was Ruled A Hate Crime After 30 Years

    Scott Johnson was an American math prodigy who moved to Australia to complete his Ph.D. at the Australian National University. At the time, he was involved with Australian musicologist Michael Noone, and his move to Australia was also to be close to his partner.

    On December 10, 1988, Johnson's unclothed body was found on rocks at the foot of cliffs at Blue Fish Point, New South Wales. His clothes and other belongings were found at the top of the cliff, and initially, his death was ruled as a suicide. 

    His brother Steve Johnson contested the ruling from the start, and felt the authorities bungled the investigation by labeling the place he died as "not a gay beat," when in fact it was. Not only was it a place for gay men to hang out and meet partners; it was also a place where gay-bashing gangs would mete out beatings - and worse - to homosexuals. 

    Steve Johnson began a campaign to get justice for his brother, and in 2012, his self-funded inquest ended in an open finding. A third inquest in 2017 finally had the state coroner Michael Barnes say that Johnson was likely "pushed, hounded or frightened off the cliff," despite NSW police asking him to make an open finding again.

    Once Scott Johnson's death was declared likely the result of a gay hate crime, the NSW police department opened a fresh investigation, under the aegis of Commissioner Mick Fuller and Detective Chief Inspector Peter Yeomans, the lead investigator. In 2018, a $1 million reward was offered for any information about the case, later increased to $2 million after Steve Johnson matched the amount. 

    In 2020, authorities arrested Scott White. On January 13th, 2022, White finally said the words Scott Johnson's family was longing to hear: "Guilty, I am guilty, guilty."

    The murder is just one of the many that took place in Australia from the 1960s to the '80s, when gangs of homophobic men targeted homosexuals. One of the gangs called themselves the Alexandria Eight and would beat gay men and push them off cliffs to their death.

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    468 VOTES

    A Son Closed The 40-Year-Old Murder Case His Father Started Investigating

    On December 19, 1979, Michelle Martinko left her choir banquet and headed to Westdale Mall in Cedar Rapids, IA. The 18-year-old was on her way to pick up a coat her mother had reserved for her. She was 18 years old and carrying $186 to pay for the coat, which she ultimately changed her mind about. She never came home.

    The next day, her body was found in the family car, a 1972 Buick Electra, in the parking lot of the same mall, stabbed and cut 29 times. At the time, nearly every police officer in Cedar Rapids was called to investigate the scene, including Detective Harvey Denlinger. 

    The police were able to collect and preserve evidence from the scene, including blood spots on the steering wheel and her dress. There was no DNA investigation at the time, so police relied on available suspects, including an ex-boyfriend, Andy Seidel. The couple had broken up, but Seidel was not only upset; he was also allegedly still trying to get back with her and near-obsessive about who she was with. Despite being a suspect for many years, authorities could find no proof against Seidel. 

    Finally, DNA entered the scene in 2005, and by this time, Martinko's former classmate Doug Larison, a police detective, was in charge. Two of the blood smearings - one from her dress and another from the steering wheel - were found to have male DNA. Further testing proved it did not belong to Seidel. 

    Another frustrating decade passed until finally, Harvey Denlinger's son Matt took over as lead detective in 2015. DNA technology had advanced again. Det. Matt Denlinger reached out to Virginia's Parabon NanoLabs with the DNA profile, and they made a composite sketch based on genetic traits. From there, he used genetic genealogy to match the suspect's DNA profile via GEDmatch, a public DNA database, which found a female relative. He spent another two years making the full family tree. 

    From there, Denlinger reached out to Parabon NanoLabs again, and they narrowed the search to three brothers from Iowa. Detectives painstakingly gathered DNA from trash, and finally had a match. One of the brothers, Jerry Burns, matched the DNA, and his younger picture was a dead ringer for the DNA-guided sketch. 

    After an arrest and trial, Burns, a father of three, was found guilty and sentenced to life without parole. He insists he did not commit the crime, however.

  • The Parents Of A Missing 9-Year-Old Girl Finally Received Answers
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    394 VOTES

    The Parents Of A Missing 9-Year-Old Girl Finally Received Answers

    Michaela Garecht, age 9, disappeared in broad daylight on November 19, 1988, from Hayward, CA. She and her friend had ridden scooters to Rainbow Grocery on Mission Boulevard to buy some snacks, and Garecht was abducted from the parking lot. The kidnapper had moved her scooter behind a car to isolate Garecht before grabbing her, leaving a palm print behind.

    Her friend Katrina Rodriguez was the only witness to the abduction, and ran inside to inform the clerk, who called police. Garecht's abduction became big news, with her photo featured on milk cartons as well as TV programs airing episodes about her, all in a bid to milk information from the public. Despite everything, the case went cold.

    That said, detailed investigations remained underway for years, finally leading police to hone in on 59-year-old David Misch, a convicted killer. He had been in prison since 1989 on an unrelated murder charge, and authorities traced him as a suspect in Garecht's kidnapping via a palm print on the scooter. At the time of his arrest, palm prints were not part of the procedure, and were taken much later. 

    Misch was charged with Garecht's kidnapping and murder in December 2020 by Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley, although the girl's remains have never been found. 

  • After 30 Years, A Teen's Cousin Was Identified As Her Killer
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    331 VOTES

    After 30 Years, A Teen's Cousin Was Identified As Her Killer

    It was July 1989, and Fawn Cox was a 16-year-old cashier at Worlds of Fun amusement park in Kansas City, MO. On July 26, she came back at 11 pm and went straight to bed. 

    The next morning, her alarm rang incessantly, so her sister and mother tried to wake her up, but she was already gone. Cox had been assaulted and murdered in her own bed, but no one in her family heard anything as they slept, because the air conditioning was on. 

    For years, the family sought answers, including looking at DNA to solve the murders, but this was deemed too expensive by Kansas City police. The family held fundraisers and even offered to pay the bill themselves. In 2020, the FBI paid the bill for DNA testing of the evidence

    The killer was finally identified as Donald Cox, Jr., her cousin. Unfortunately, he could not be put on trial, as he had passed years ago from a drug overdose.