“This is a marathon, not a sprint.”

Younger brother of Carla Walker, murdered at age 17 in 1974. Last night Dateline covered the 1974 cold case rape and murder of this high school student in Texas. The episode (S30, E14: After the Dance) is streaming on Peacock. See also:

https://www.star-telegram.com/news/local/crime/article257750098.html

The case was solved with the help of Othram Labs, https://othram.com/, a private lab that was able to re-evaluate the evidence in this case and with the use of genetic genealogy, establish that the DNA left on the victim’s clothing belonged to a man who had lived a few streets away from her family. The suspect had passed a police polygraph back in the day. Go figure.

If you watch the show, you will see and hear how crime scene investigators in 1974 collected, handled and preserved the evidence so that 21st century technology could be used to solve the crime. One of the many cruel disappointments in the OCCK investigation has been learning over the past 15 years how poorly the state police handled the evidence–mishandled, in fact–from four child murders in the biggest unsolved serial homicide case in Michigan history. You can whine all you want about how limited forensics were back then, but why on earth would this agency not leave everything in order and do the best job they could to preserve evidence and organize files as they, time and again, put this case back on the shelf?

More to the point in 2022, why will the MSP not run the most sophisticated DNA testing available on the evidence they did manage to preserve and keep track of? I’ve told you before, we have offered to help pay for this testing. Even as I type that, I cringe thinking about what that agency did with all of the grant monies it received and how it has never, not once, had to answer or account for how it has spent taxpayer money on this case over the decades in this allegedly “open” case. The last word from anyone with authority in this case concerning DNA was in 2012. A decade ago.

There was also mention in the show about how detectives had taken photos of everyone who attended this young woman’s funeral. This reminded me that last year my brothers and I discussed how police had taken photos of not only my brother Tim’s funeral service–many, many photos of people in attendance, but also of the front door to the funeral home where my brother’s body was after the autopsy. Police took photos from the roof of a parking structure across the street from the funeral home. There were photos of my family coming and going. Who else “stopped in,” or tried to?

I am guessing photos were probably taken at Kristine’s service, and maybe even Jill’s and Mark’s. Knowing everything we now know, why can’t we take another look at those photographs to see if we recognize someone from the rogue’s gallery we have seen over the past 15 years? I considered filing a FOIA request with the state police, but I know what would happen. They would charge me a lot of money to do the search (which should take all of 30 minutes) and then tell me one of two things. Can’t find them, therefore they don’t exist, or if I send them $4,500 they will send me some copies. Maybe.

Last year we contacted the Birmingham Police on the off chance they had the photos, at least of the stakeout of the funeral home. They, unlike their predecessors at that PD over the decades, were incredibly helpful, searched the remaining files they had, and could not find any such photos. They did allow my brother to review all of their remaining files in Tim’s case. No charge, no cruelty, no snarky letters from their FOIA people; they showed him what they had. They actually told us because they were our hometown PD, they were there to help however they could, even though they could not change the past. It was obvious most of the case information had been handed over to the state police black hole.

In what world does a victim’s family member have to file a FOIA request and pay a bunch of money in order to look at those old photographs again? After my brother’s funeral, we all had to sit in our living room and go through probably 1,500 photos to tell police who we recognized and who we did not. Because the state police have demonized our family specifically, I am sure if one of the other families had such a request, they would at least get a return phone call.

At the end of the day, the police in Texas wanted to solve this young woman’s murder case and that’s why they stuck with it and pursued every avenue and other resources to get the job done. The serial murder of four children held captive for days before their executions does not merit the same attention by the Michigan State Police?