COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - A former Columbus homicide detective is coming partially out of retirement to work on giving closure to families whose loved ones' murder cases have gone cold.
“Cold just simply means there are no leads to pursue at that point," Detective Stuart Carter said. “Depending on the age of the case, there could still be evidence in our possession that was never tested. The majority of cold cases across the country that are cleared, it’s normally based on DNA evidence or finger prints that weren’t processed or those types of things.”
Detective Carter said there are 91 homicide investigations that are considered cold and some of those date back to 1973.
With cold case investigations, police say community involvement is absolutely vital. One call, one piece of information, could break open a case.
Carter is actively working three cold cases right now. He said unfortunately the homicide unit has to focus on current cases so they do not go cold, but for him cold cases is his sole focus.
“We’re going to follow up on every lead that is possibly there and then once every lead it followed up on and we’re no further than we were from the very start as far as identifying the suspect that’s when the case starts going cold,” Carter said.
“Every blue moon you right get the right witness to come forward and give you information but when it comes to cold cases it’s normally some form of physical evidence that was never tested that ends up being the break in the case," Carter said.
The testing available now as far as DNA was not available when some of these murders happened, so testing that evidence already in lockup could bring about a new lead.
“Sometimes if you can’t identify the suspect, you can eliminate people that were brought up during the investigation and that’s progress," Carter said.
Progress is the key according to Carter, he said even if you cannot clear a case, you can move it forward for the next pair of eyes to look at it. As he continues digging for answers, the investigator wants you to know just how important you can be.
“You may be able to help us and not realize it," Carter said. “There’s not anything more vital than the community, because most of our murder cases, any high profile cases murders rapes shootings things like that, there’s almost always a witness there.”
As an example, Carter knows there are three people who could have been with Albert Woolfolk the night he was murdered. The main man police are looking for is described as being around 25 at the time of the 2003 murder, clean-shaven with a medium build. Police report the man frequented Coach’s Corner Sports Cafe and was a heavy drinker with a violent temper who enjoyed playing pool. If you know this man, you could help with this case.
Carter said he does not know the pain firsthand, but he has worked with many families over the years whose loved ones were murdered.
“We’re not working the cases for the victim because they’re gone. We’re actually working the cases for the families and loved ones and technically the community itself because if we don’t catch that killer there’s a chance he could strike again," Carter said.
If you have any information on any case, recent or three decades old, call it in. You never know, the one small piece of information you share could break open a case.
Watch our full, unedited interview with Detective Carter below.