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Persistence and a Different Perspective Can Help Solve Cold Cases

When it comes to crime, persistence and a new perspective can sometimes help solve cold cases, as illustrated in a recent indictment in a 13-year-old cold case.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — When it comes to crime, two kinds of cases stay on people's minds: the ones that are particularly heinous and the ones that do not get solved.

Aspiring dancer and pageant queen Beth-Ellen Vinson, pregnant newspaper carrier Jenna Nielsen and Michelle Young, who was found dead in her home with her young daughter unharmed by her side – they are names that resonate because no one has been arrested.

This week, however, a Wake County grand jury indicted Maxine Edmond Pardo, 43, who is wanted on murder charges stemming from the 1994 shaking death of a 2½-year-old boy – showing no cold case is ever really forgotten.

Within the past few years, DNA technology has made it possible to solve cases that are 10 to 20 years old.

And sometimes, according to Wake County Deputy District Attorney Howard Cummings, it is only a matter of looking at a case again from a new angle.

"There are cold cases. But when the agency's in this jurisdiction, from time to time those cases are assigned and the detectives go back and start looking at them and give it a fresh perspective," he said.

Cummings said Raleigh police investigators think they might now know where to find Pardo, but authorities won't say where they think he might be.

"There might even be a warrant taken out – in this case, there was," Cummings said. "But it wasn't served because the perpetrator leaves the jurisdiction and sometimes, quite obviously, we can't find them for years. And then, they surface."

As a result, detectives urged Cummings to move forward.

"You go back and review and re-interview all of the witnesses again and make sure they're still in a position to testify and are ready and willing to come to court," he said.

There is no statute of limitation on felonies, and Cummings said that as long as law enforcement agencies continue to re-examine cold cases, there is always a chance they will be solved.

Earlier this year, Raleigh police solved a 1981 assault that led to the death of Clyde Deward Sykes, 41, who was working as a motel clerk at the Howard Johnson's Motor Lodge on Capital Boulevard.

Detectives renewed it several times since 1981. As part of a March 2006 review, detectives were able to re-examine fingerprint evidence that linked to the suspect, Everett Julious Alston. There was no arrest, however, because Alston died in 2000.

And after a three-year investigation, Raleigh police arrested Drew Edward Planten, 35, in October 2005, in connection with the death of Stephanie Bennett, who was raped and killed in her North Raleigh apartment on May 21, 2002.

A prison guard, while conducting routine checks at Raleigh's Central Prison, found Planten dead in his cell, having hanged himself.

In both cases, family members of the victims were relieved that arrests had been made, even though the suspects never went to trial.


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