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Inside the GBI: Cracking 'unsolved' cases

When a violent crime is committed and the trail goes cold, what happens?

PERRY, Ga. — One Central Georgia GBI office says they never stop investigating, and that attitude has helped them crack close to 10 old cases.

The formula that’s earned the Perry GBI office as a cold case shop seems, at its core, simple. They combine old-school investigative work with rapidly advancing technology and keep going until they get a break.

For the GBI, there’s no such thing as a cold case.

“It’s an attitude that we have at the GBI where I'll refer to them as unsolved cases or ‘old’ cases. We prefer ‘old’ cases,” said Special Agent in Charge J.T. Ricketson. “We visit every case that we have that's active every three months.”

"'Shy Shy' [Pate], the little girl that went missing in Dooly County, weeks ago we were down in Dooly County conducting large search efforts trying to follow up some tips that we had received earlier, so again, that is an older case but it still has a lot of current activity on it,” said Ricketson.

RELATED: 'Shy Shy' Pate case background

Ricketson's team at the GBI's Perry office didn't find what they were looking for on that case, but in many others, they have.

They constantly review old files, and that work has helped crack nearly 10 unsolved cases. According to Ricketson, three BIG ones were solved in just the last two years.

After 12 years, two suspects were arrested in connection with the murder of Tara Grinstead.

RELATED: TIMELINE: What's happened in the Tara Grinstead case since 2005

A Macon teen, Sabrina Long, seemingly vanished in 1991.

"It's one of those mom things," said her mother Sue Corley in a previous interview. "Mamas feel and in my heart, I don't think she's alive."

RELATED: Timeline: What we know about the Sabrina Long case

Long's high school classmate is now charged with her murder.

And the alleged killer of a Ben Hill County woman found dead in 1996 was arrested for her murder last year.

In that case, as in many others, old school investigative doggedness and high-tech forensic work both played a role.

"When they did the autopsy, the medical examiner said he did not see the presence of semen in the female victim and so the local agency had collected a rape kit during the autopsy but then they never submitted it because they said, 'oh well there's no semen so there's no really reason to do that' but with the advances that we've got now through DNA technology we said, 'hey let's submit that anyway and just see,'" said Ricketson. "We found male DNA in that rape kit. It matched our suspect."

That big break, he says, led to an arrest and a conviction.

"That's true closure right there," said Ricketson. "They finally had something vindicated about their mother's death and now we have someone in prison that was responsible for that."

Ricketson says they once had about 35 unsolved cases at the GBI's Perry office. Now, that number's down to 26.

If they have their way, he says it's only going to get smaller. "These cases are old cases," he said. "They're not cold cases."

If you know anything about a currently unsolved case, Ricketson asks that you call 1-800-597-TIPS (8477) or use the online tip portal at the GBI's website.


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Inside the GBI: High-tech tools they use to close cases

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