County auditors have been working to sort unprocessed evidence that could help solve area cold cases.
In late November, an employee of the Hamilton County Medical Examiner's Office notified a cold case detective of the unprocessed evidence.
District Attorney Neal Pinkston named an "external citizen committee" to oversee the inventory and review the recently discovered evidence—some that could be connected to previously prosecuted homicides dating back 30 years.
The unanalyzed evidence is related to homicides, suicides and accidental deaths spanning between 1986 and 2002, according to the DA's office.
Auditors have been sorting through envelopes that contain both photos and evidence.
They will digitize the photos and are documenting on a spreadsheet what kind of evidence they find.
Monday morning, Roger Kincer with the county auditor's office said he had documented evidence such as hair, bullets and a note. It seemed to be a suicide note, but there were also seven bullets at the scene. So that leaves some questions.
The photos are gruesome, but the team is working to get past those and find the evidence envelopes.
"It can be [upsetting]," Kincer said. "Like everybody said, the photos of children are the worst. There are abused children. There are bodies from fires. We just try to reach in and see if there's any evidence and move on."
Jenneth Randall, who is overseeing the inventory for the county auditor, found a way to use the medical examiner’s database to collect a great deal of the information that officials need. Officials can use a number on the envelope to match that evidence to the medical examiner's database.
"This is a huge help and will greatly reduce the manpower and time required to complete the steps necessary to ensure conviction integrity," Melydia Clewell, spokesperson for the Hamilton County District Attorney's Office, said in an email.
Later, officials can match that information to the Criminal Court case database to find even more information. And from there, officials will have to decide if the evidence is valuable to old cases.
The older files from the 1970s and 1980s will still need to be matched up by hand.
Clewell also said that local officials are going beyond what is required by Supreme Court rules about what to do when old evidence is found.
It's unclear how evidence—such as hair, fibers, a bullet fragment and a note from a crime scene—went unnoticed for so long or why it wasn't processed.
The evidence could play a role in two separate, unsolved 1987 homicides. The victims in these cases were Wade Hampton and Hugh Goldston. There's not a statute of limitations for homicide cases in Tennessee.
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