MPD Launches Cold Case Review Team

November 17, 2010

"Passage of time alone will not keep one from facing justice"

Two years ago, a former Madison man - Eugene Zapata -was convicted in Dane County Court after murdering his wife Jeanette in 1976. Chief Noble Wray wholeheartedly supported the commitment of resources to bring needed closure to Jeanette Zapata's family and friends. Her daughter, Linda Zapata, later wrote in a letter to the editor of the Wisconsin State Journal: "In the end, I think we all benefit from the actions of Wray and the Madison Police Department (MPD)," adding, "The message is clear: One cannot commit murder and other heinous actions and get away with it, the passage of time alone will not keep one from facing justice."

The Madison Police Department, as evidenced by the Zapata case, has long been dedicated to pursing cold cases, and is now formalizing the process with the creation of a
Cold Case Review Team (CCRT). "The Cold Case Review Team will take a new and fresh look at aging cases as we look to show the Madison community the capability, and the commitment, of the men and women of this department when it comes to achieving justice for victims and families," said Chief Wray.

Much like SWAT, or the Special Events Team (SET), the CCRT will meet as needed - a projected 25 days a year - and the workload will be in addition to members' previously assigned duties. The team is made up of MPD staff, each of whom possesses expertise in a variety of investigative specialties. In addition, the team will add outside resources to its' ranks as needed. For instance, a prosecutor from the District Attorney's office, or a scientist from the Wisconsin State Crime Laboratory, might be desired partners in an unsolved case.

The CCRT's charge is to open new doors into old cases through innovative ideas. "The team will re-examine each cold case using a broad focus and a range or alternative techniques including any advances made in forensic capabilities since the initial investigation into the case," said Capt. Jay Lengfeld, the CCRT leader.

Cases for CCRT consideration will be brought to the table via case detectives, district commanders, or the department's chiefs. The CCRT will determine what resources might be dedicated to each cold case based on several factors, including solvability. The team will make specific recommendations or suggestions as to how the case might best be moved forward, and if necessary, prioritize or triage the order in which cold cases will be pursued.

The CCRT is comprised of: one captain (Lengfeld), one detective lieutenant, a case detective, three to four detectives, one investigator, and one Criminal Intelligence Section (CIS) officer.

The Wisconsin Department of Justice has provided a $40,000 grant to the MPD to help fund the CCRT.

Contact:
  • Joel DeSpain, 266-4897