February 23, 2013

Myrtle Beach police turn cold cases over to fresh eyes

Myrtle Beach is known for being a retirement destination and the city’s police department wants to tap into the vast knowledge those former professionals have with a new cold case team to review unsolved crimes.

Myrtle Beach is known for being a retirement destination and the city’s police department wants to tap into the vast knowledge those former professionals have with a new cold case team to review unsolved crimes.

Police officials are seeking retired law enforcement officers with investigative experience to volunteer to be a part of the team, said Capt. David Knipes. Applicants must undergo background checks and interviews.

The use of retired officers for a cold case team is a new concept for the Myrtle Beach area, but other departments do review their unsolved cases using various methods within the department, officials said.

“The idea was initiated as a project for one of the recent promotional processes. I asked the candidates to develop a cold case review team,” Myrtle Beach police Chief Warren Gall said. “They and I emphasize ‘they’ did such a great job, that we took the best from each and developed the program. “

Myrtle Beach’s Lt. Richard Shoe said other departments in the Carolinas such as the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office and the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department have teams, and have had “some success at solving cases that have gone cold.”

The team will look over case files for unsolved homicides and other violent or high profile cases, Shoe said. But there isn’t a specific number of cases police officials plan to assign to the team once it is in place.

“We are getting calls and have already received a few applications to become members of the team,” Shoe said of the program that was announced on Tuesday.

The concept isn’t new, but is handled differently in the area’s police departments, officials said.

Horry County police ask an officer, who didn’t work on the case, to take a look at it for review, Sgt. Robert Kegler said. The cases involve mostly violent crimes and date back as far as two unsolved homicides from April and June of 1978, he said.

“We bring these cases out and give them to a fresh detective, who has never looked at the case before, to look it over and see if anything has been missed,” Kegler said. Such reviews often help lead to “making arrests on cases from 2001 or 2005.”

North Myrtle Beach and Conway police officials did not respond to requests about how they review their unsolved crimes.

Both Horry County and Myrtle Beach police officials said they don’t have specific numbers of unsolved violent crimes they consider cold cases. But Myrtle Beach Chief Gall said he doesn’t expect the new volunteer team to run out of things to review.

“The number of cases is really irrelevant at this time,” Gall said. “We will select a handful of the most serious offenses. We cannot overwhelm the team with so many cases that they cannot be effective. If we reach a dead-end or solve a case, we’ll introduce another.”

Some of the cases Shoe said he plans to introduce for review include an unsolved homicide from Oct. 23, 2003 when a store clerk was shot and killed while working at the business located on Kings Highway.

In that homicide, 43-year-old Jim Davis was shot about 3:30 a.m. while he worked at The Pantry at 34th Avenue North. At the time of the killing police said the store's cash register was robbed, but they did not release other details. No one has been arrested, but police did release a sketch of a possible suspect, who they believe drove a dark two-color hatchback vehicle at the time of the shooting.

Other crimes for review include a burglary at Myrtle Waves where the money that was raised for the Miracle League was stolen, Shoe said.

“Obviously they don’t seem to have a number of cases that they would consider ‘cold’ but they will start by looking into the higher priority type of cases like murders, and such, Knipes said.

Community members interested in volunteering must meet several criteria, Knipes said.

That includes being a retired law enforcement officer with at least three years of investigative experience and violent crime investigative experience is preferred; willingness to give their time; willing to meet at least monthly and be prepared to work as part of a team. Volunteers also will undergo a background check and oral interview.

No field work will be required and the volunteers will not have any law enforcement authority. The team will meet at the Myrtle Beach Police Department Annex at 3340 Mustang St., in Myrtle Beach, and will be under the direct control of the captain of the investigative division or another designee.

To volunteer, submit an application to the investigations captain by fax at 918-1377 or in person or via mail at 1101 N. Oak St., Myrtle Beach, SC 29577.

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