New funding will help prosecutors pin down cold case suspects

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Williamson County Sheriff’s Office and Austin Police Department have both had some big breaks recently in decades-old cases. Now that hard work may soon be rewarded.

Congressman John Carter, R-Round Rock, is talking about cold cases.

“These are bad cases. These are cases that we all know the trauma it puts on the victims and quite honestly the stress it puts on the courthouse,” Carter said.

He watched his district to make them a priority, so he introduced and helped pass the Justice Served Act, which will provide extra funding to prosecutors after investigators use DNA testing to nail down a suspect.

“We’ve got to have the extra funds to do this,” the congressman said. But Carter wouldn’t say how much extra funding will be available.

In Williamson County, the DA’s office hopes it will be enough to help in the Rachel Cooke cold case.

Investigators are currently testing DNA from a blood sample found in a car believed to be connected to the 19-year-old’s disappearance during a run in 2002.

If that yields a suspect and the case goes to court, Williamson County District Attorney Shawn Dick said, “to do it right, to do it professionally with experience, it does cost money.”

In Austin, detectives say cold cases often take even more money than in average cases.

Detective Brad Herries with the APD Cold Case Unit said there are many challenges in the long-run with cold case prosecutions. “You’re looking at finding people who may have moved, who may have changed names, who may no longer be living.”

Herries and his unit recently used DNA to name a suspect in the 1979 murder of Debra Reiding.

As they work with the DA’s office to take the case to court, he was unaware of the new grant but hopes it will help with the end goal.

The detective said, “We want to make sure these families receive that justice and that closure and resolution to these cases.” 

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