Cold Case: Milwaukee
Milwaukee Police Detectives Kathy Hein, Gilbert Hernandez. | Photo: Nick Iannelli
Throughout the years, the Milwaukee Police Department has accumulated several hundred unsolved murders.
In the past, regular officers on the force would periodically work on solving those cases.
"There was a squad of detectives that would work old homicides," said Detective Kathy Hein. "But they were always hindered by the fact that they also had to work and contribute to the new cases that were coming in."
That's until the department assigned Detective Kathy Hein and her partner, Detective Gilbert Hernandez to exclusively work on old, unsolved murders.
The decision came from the fact that several cities around the country had success with creating separate units solely dedicated to those types of homicides.
"We looked at Denver, Charlotte, and Kansas City who have very successful units," said Hein.
• Milwaukee Police Cold Cases Site
"The supervisors realize that they are successful because their detectives are totally separate from the regular homicide rotation."
The Milwaukee Police Department decided to follow in the footsteps of those other successful units and create their own cold case unit, headed by Detective Hein and Detective Hernandez.
Kathy and Gilbert have worked together on homicides for around 13 years, and combined, have 53 years experience on the police force.
But still they had never participated in a project quite like this.
"We've gotten calls about cases from the 1950's," said Kathy. "We're working on several very interesting ones from the 1970's."
The unit itself is much smaller than it sounds, consisting of Kathy, Gilbert, and several college interns majoring in things like criminal justice, forensic science, and criminology.
Their job is to completely start the investigation of a case over again. They have to find out if there are any witnesses who are still around and willing to talk.
Also they examine the possible existence of physical evidence, something Kathy says is, in many cases, crucial.
"Technological advances that are coming to the forefront are obviously forcing us to take a look at these old cases and are making us realize these cases could be solved."
Even with everything they do from finding old DNA, to looking up past autopsy results, Kathy says you should never underestimate how important it is to get the public involved in coming forward with information.
"The bottom line is the cooperation of the people," Kathy said. "If people don't come forward and talk to us, we don't know where to go."
The Cold Case Unit is right now working on around 35 cases, many of which you can find by clicking on this website.
If you have any information at all regarding any of the cases, you are urged to please call 935-7360. You can remain anonymous if you wish.