Ohio AG announces new cold case unit that will take look at Chelsea Johnson, 3 other local homicide victims

Ohio Attorney General announces new cold case unit

CINCINNATI (FOX19) - Investigators will take a closer look at four local unsolved slayings as part of a new statewide cold case unit Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost launched Friday.

Fifteen-year-old Chelsea Johnson’s body was found near a Fairfield intersection in April 2012. The county coroner’s office determined the Fairfield Options Academy student was stabbed to death.

Johnson’s homicide remains unsolved, but a man was convicted of offering Johnson drugs in exchange for sex near the time of her death.

RELATED | Family of teen murdered in 2012 pleading for answers

The other local cases are:

  • Herman Brown, 46: Cincinnati police received a call on Feb. 14, 2003 reporting Brown had not been seen in a long time. Officers were dispatched to his Westwood apartment, where he was found beaten to death inside.
  • Raymond M. Wells III: The 18-year-old was found dead June 28, 1999 in the middle of a Sharonville street. It was a retirement neighborhood that he had no known connection to, about 10 miles from his home in Bond Hill. Evidence showed that, in addition to other injuries, Raymond had been dragged by a car.
  • Cheryl Thompson, 19: Loveland police believe the University of Cincinnati student was on spring break when she disappeared and died at an unknown location sometime between March 24, 1978 and April 8, 1978. She’d been staying with her parents and younger brother at their Mariemont home when she set out the evening of March 24, 1978, to meet her boyfriend at Gatsby’s disco in Oakley. She never arrived. Two weeks later, a state game warden looking to check the licenses of fishermen happened across Thompson’s body on an embankment off the 260 block of East Kemper Road. She was partially clothed and had been beaten and strangled.

“We can make a difference, even when years have passed since a murder or sexual assault,” Yost said in a news release. “Consider how DNA testing advances have unmasked, time and time again, violent criminals who got away with living among us for too long.”

The new Cold Case Unit (CCU) will operate in Yost’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) and work with law enforcement departments where cases originated to enhance their investigations using a variety of resources and techniques.

That includes state-of-the-art criminal intelligence gathering and laboratory analysis and expertise in forensic disciplines such as crime scene and cybercrimes.

Strategies will be customized to each cold case.

For example, the cold case unit could tap BCI’s Investigation Division for interrogations and exhumations, the Laboratory for advanced DNA testing or fingerprint analysis; and the Criminal Intelligence Unit for genealogy research after familial DNA tests or a fresh take on case details to ID new suspects.

Those BCI tools have been used to investigate serial killers, identify unknown remains and indict sexual assault perpetrators, according to the AG’s office.

“With the advances in science today, it’s become possible for us to identify victims that have not been identified for long periods of time,” BCI Superintendent Joe Morbitzer said. “Those folks and their families deserve that. They deserve to be identified and given proper burials, and then for the family to have closure.”

The new unit and BCI’s Lab Division also are teaming up on two sexual assault case initiatives:

  • In Project SEND, local law enforcement agencies across Ohio will be notified of thousands of older cases in which technological advancements could provide new leads.
  • In Project SAK, law enforcement agencies will be offered additional investigative or laboratory strategies in cases in which BCI already found DNA, part of Ohio’s effort to test old sexual assault evidence that had been gathering dust in department storage rooms.

“Even if leads were thought to be exhausted in the past, applying current technology and new techniques may help solve old cases,” BCI Superintendent Joe Morbitzer said. “This is a service for all law enforcement agencies. BCI provides its resources to everyone from urban departments with a larger case volume to rural offices with limited resources – all can benefit from this true partnership model.”

More information on how the new unit works may be found here.

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