Kent Metro Cold Case Team gets federal grant

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — There is nothing more rewarding for a detective than telling a family their murdered love one has not been forgotten.

“To tell them that we finally have answers and they received justice that they so longed for,” said Michigan State Police Detective Sgt. Sally Wolter.

Wolter leads the Kent Metro Cold Case Team. Made up of detectives from her agency, the Grand Rapids Police Department and the Kent County Sheriff’s Department, it was formed in 2006 to take another look at murders that for various reasons have gone unsolved.

Kent Metro has closed 17 cases in the last eight years, making it one of the most successful cold case teams in the nation.

That number may not seem large compared to the 188 cases still on the team’s list.

But there’s a reason the murders have gone unsolved — in some cases for decades. Evidence trails grow cold, witnesses leave the area and investigative and technological techniques sometime take years to develop.

The Kent Metro Team has been able to overcome those obstacles.

But the loss of a $300,000 federal grant in August hit the team hard.

“We had to go back to the drawing board and cut $111,000 out of that budget,” Wolter said.

But this week, the team got some good news. After competing with the likes of New York, Las Vegas and Miami, the Kent Metro Team won a $188,000 National Institute of Justice grant to help fund the team over the next two years.

The number of cases the team has solved were one way to convince the panel to send the money to Kent Metro.

But the way the team works — from case selection to DNA capabilities to the collaborative efforts — convinced the panel that Kent Metro would put the funds to good use, according to Wolter.

“We show that our partnerships work,” Wolter said. “That we solve cases when you pool together.”

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