Cold cases on television and in the movies are solved instantly, or at least in an hour, by clean, well-dressed, acutely handsome actors. Real unsolved crimes, as Columbia College criminal justice instructor Mike Himmel prefers to call them, fall to overworked, understaffed police officers who get very dirty indeed. CSI devotees see actors handle a page or two of evidence; a real case can generate 500 pages. Forensics and DNA results overnight? Try a year in the real world.
That's where Himmel and Columbia College can help Missouri police. In 2006, Himmel, a retired detective, put his class into the Pulaski County mud to excavate human remains that led to a conviction. During Spring Semester 2009, Himmel secured documents of a unsolved 1989 Columbia, Mo., murder, and unleashed his students. These dedicated students then examined, digitized, placed in a proper time sequence and otherwise organized up to 500 pages of evidence.
"They [Himmel and his class] get more done in a semester than we can get done in two years," said John Short, a Columbia detective.
Watch the City Channel video online.