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Homicide cases still unsolved

May 23, 2004|By PEPPER BALLARD
(Page 2 of 2)

Nature can help scientists pin down the time of death, he said. Evaluating insect and animal activity, plant life and depressed soil near the body will help pinpoint how long a body has been lying there.

When investigators are left with nothing but a skull, Kercheval said, they have to work to come up with an identity based on the bone structure of what was found. A body pulled from the water is a challenge because water washes off trace evidence, he said.

Detectives are limited by the evidence available to them, said Washington County State's Attorney M. Kenneth Long Jr.

"People's memories fade, people die - there are all kinds of situations that occur along those lines," he said.

But there's no time limit on solving cold cases.

"As a general rule, there's no statute of limitation on felonies in Maryland," Long said.

Closing the case

In a lot of the cases, Kercheval said, "Police have a good bit of information, but not enough to go to court."

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That was true in the Washington County Sheriff's Department's only cold case, said Sgt. Mark Knight, who heads the department's criminal investigations unit.

After the body of Tony Lee Carbaugh was found in a wooded area on Aug. 12, 2000, four people were charged with murder, theft and kidnapping in the case, Knight said.

When the only man of the four charged with conspiracy to commit first- and second-degree murder had his day in court, Knight said, he pleaded guilty only to kidnapping and did not implicate himself or the other three men in Carbaugh's murder.

Douglas Lee Hevener of Boonsboro was sentenced in June 2001 to serve 25 years in prison after he pleaded guilty to kidnapping Carbaugh and driving him to Williamsport, according to published reports. A Washington County Circuit judge reduced Hevener's sentence to 20 years in March 2002, published reports said.

Knight said charges were dropped against the other three men.

"There was no overwhelming evidence to convict anybody," he said.

Knight said the sheriff's department has all the evidence from the case and hopes DNA technology will make something of the items found at the crime scene.

Advances in technology

Advances in DNA technology have Kercheval and lab forensic scientist Susan Blankenship prepared to tackle older cases if necessary.

Kercheval said because of a national computer system called CODIS, which tracks offenders' DNA profiles, the crime lab can send DNA samples to be checked against other profiles in the system.

When someone is convicted of a felony and sent to prison, a sample of the person's DNA is collected to be entered into CODIS, Kercheval said.

It can cost the department between $500 and $1,000 to have DNA tested, he said. Many samples from rape cases already have been sent from the city police department to be checked against the system, he said.

A family copes

"The most difficult part of the job is when you can't give any additional news to the family," Johnson said. "Every family wants closure; they want us to be able to identify who's done this to their loved one."

Fritz's parents said not knowing who killed their daughter has been rough.

"It seems like every time things start to settle down, something comes up to bring it all back," said Gayle Fritz, Goldie's father.

Goldie's mother, Hazel Fritz, 67, said she thought a man executed in Baltimore a few years ago was someone police believed might have been involved in her daughter's death. She was surprised to hear her daughter's case was in the process of being re-examined.

Gayle Fritz initially said two suspects were developed in his daughter's death, but both had alibis. His eyes misty, Fritz said he wishes someone would pay for Goldie's death.

"I guess we all get paid for it in the end, but you don't know how long that will be, either," he said.

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