Tulare County's cold case unit hoping to bring closure to victims and families

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In the South Valley, after a few years without a cold case unit, the Tulare County Sheriff is bringing it back. (KFSN)

In the South Valley, after a few years without a cold case unit, the Tulare County Sheriff is bringing it back. They hope it will bring justice to suspects and closure to victims and their families.

Inside a nondescript room of the Tulare County Government Building, you'll find dozens and dozens of homicide case files. Some of them have been solved, many are still cold.

Like the case of Angelica Ramirez, who went missing from the Visalia swap meet in March of 1994. Her body was eventually found, but her killer was not. Now, the revived Tulare County Sheriff's Cold Case Unit aims to find that person.

"When those leads fade away, the case has become cold. We never forget, and that's the reason we've reestablished this unit, is, we want the families and the victims and the citizens of Tulare County to know that we're taking these very seriously," said Mike Boudreaux, Tulare County Sheriff.

Since 1994, there have been significant advancements in forensic technology and DNA analysis which will factor into the Ramirez case. Someone still may have something to say or an important piece of information will surface. The Sheriff said a cold case detective is not a job fit for a rookie cop.

"Chris has some files up on his desk-- I've got files up at my desk," said Boudreaux.

That's why he handpicked detectives Chris Dempsie and Dwayne Johnson. The detectives have a combined 70 years of law enforcement experience.

Johnson has been on the job since last summer and is already working several cases.

Dempsie started three weeks ago but has already spent hours reading through the case of Larry Whitfield.

In April of 2003, Whitfield, a retired Kern County deputy, was shot to death by someone at the youth center he started in Woodlake.

"There's been a lot of different avenues, letters-- anonymous letters-- coming in, 'I've got a hunch that so and so did it' and those leads have been ran out, but I'm going to put everything I have into it as I'm sure those before me did," said Dempsie.

The detectives won't be able to review all of Tulare County's cold cases. They will double team them, because, at the end of the day, they say two heads are better than one.

"You can look at something all day and completely miss it when it's staring you in the face. Somebody else can come along and look at it and point out that you've missed it," said Johnson.

It's labor and time intensive, but it's exciting and rewarding work.

The suspect may think they're off the hook, but Johnson and Dempsie are just getting started.
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