Skip to comments.New 'Cold Case' Unit Helps Solve Old Murders (Santa Clara County)
Posted on 07/04/2005 10:26:57 AM PDT by nickcarraway
A new "cold case" unit that investigates unsolved homicides in Santa Clara County has already resulted in murder charges being filed in three old cases, prosecutors announced Friday at a news conference.
Chief Assistant District Attorney Karyn Sinunu said she decided to form a dedicated two-person unit in the District Attorney's Office earlier this year after two high-profile cold case murders were solved by local authorities.
"After the Xiana Fairchild case and the Jeanine Harms case, I decided to form a cold case unit so we could assist our local law enforcement in solving old homicides," Sinunu said.
Sinunu announced her candidacy for district attorney earlier this year and was endorsed by retiring District Attorney George Kennedy in May.
Investigative work by unit members Deputy District Attorney Charles Constantinides and Investigator Michael Schembri has already contributed to two arrests for separate 1993 homicides. Today prosecutors announced an arrest for a third cold case, the 1988 slaying of Palo Alto attorney Gretchen Burford.
According to court documents, Tyrone Hamel, 39, kidnapped and stabbed Burford during an attempted robbery as he used an automated teller machine in Mountain View on Feb. 26, 1988. Hamel is also suspected of attempting to kidnap a second woman using an ATM machine in Mountain View in March 1988. He was linked to the Burford slaying using DNA technology that was unavailable in 1988, according to Constantinides.
Hamel is currently serving a sentence of life plus 60 years in Texas for a number of robberies and sexual assaults and extradition to California could take several months. He could face the death penalty for the Burford slaying, Sinunu said.
There are approximately 300 unsolved homicides in Santa Clara County, the oldest stretch back to the 1940s, Constantinides said. He is currently examining about 15 cold cases and is optimistic about solving several of them.
"We've got three or four in the pipeline," Constantinides said.
Mountain View Police Chief Scott Vermeer praised the new unit.
"We unconditionally support it. It's a great example of collaboration," Vermeer said. "Individually we probably couldn't have solved it but together we were able to."
Some other local law enforcement agencies have been less enthusiastic about the unit, according to Constantinides.
"We get great cooperation from some agencies, others are less helpful," Constantinides said.
"A lot of police consider what I'm doing interloping," Constantinides said later.
Constantinides said he would likely be working full time on cold cases for the rest of the year. He was scheduled to prosecute Curtis Dean Anderson for the murder of Xiana Fairchild, a likely death penalty case according to Anderson's attorney, but that case has been delayed until December because Anderson recently changed attorneys.
The start of the Anderson trial will not mean the end of the cold case unit, according to Sinunu.
"The unit will keep going," Sinunu said.
Sinunu is impressed with the results the unit has produced so far.
"We've got three already. If we got one every six months that would be great," Sinunu said.
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I won't even ask about the picture.....
You're out of the Detective Club.
I never thought I'd see something like that on a Volvo.
I know that's not me - my mark was left on a 740i.
Whew. I just knew you had more class than that old car....
As do you!