A cold case investigator’s motto is to “never give up.” No matter how many obstacles are encountered, you either go over them or you go around them. That dedication and determination are two key qualities of cold case investigators.
What could go wrong in a case, sometimes does. This isn’t television where they close a 30-year-old case in 45 minutes with three commercials. There are many factors that can make the trail go cold.
For example, a lack of direct evidence such as an eyewitness, video surveillance, or a lack of physical evidence. Sometimes, a case goes cold because of human error. This is what makes cold case investigations the most difficult of all – not all the pieces of the puzzle are there.
The Cape May County prosecutor April 8 announced the arrest of 62-year-old Jerry Rosado, of Millville, for the 1990 sexual assault of Susan Negersmith. Twenty-year-old Susan was on vacation in Wildwood with friends when she was sexually assaulted and murdered. Her body was left outside of a storage facility.
I can imagine investigators pouring over the crime scene photos over and over again because I know that’s what I would have done. Looking and searching for any clue, matching up evidence collected at the scene with what reports they did have. Reading interviews, newspaper articles, detective notepads – anything to give you some insight into what happened that day. Was anything missed?
For nearly 32 years, he thought he had gotten away with it. Criminals never count on the wheels they put in motion when they chose to harm other people.
The work, dedication, and collaboration of the federal, state, and local authorities is what made this arrest possible. Great detective work aided by new technology broke the case wide open.
New advancements in DNA technology and genealogy databases keep hope alive for victims’ families. It’s an exciting time for cold case investigators. The new technology coupled with the public’s insatiable appetite to help solve cases will bring more good news in the future.
However, we can’t overlook the great job that the police did in 1990, which made the arrest possible. DNA evidence was identified, secured, and packaged well enough to help investigators decades later. This isn’t always the norm for cases this old and those cops deserve credit, too.
This cold case investigation is far from over. Mr. Rosado was charged with the sexual assault of Negersmith and not her murder. The prosecutor said that may change in the future. I believe that it will. The evidence against Rosado was developed from within the prosecutor’s office – the office responsible for trying his case.
I can tell you from experience that there is nothing more satisfying than delivering this type of news to the family. The cold case investigator is the last liaison between the police department and the family. It’s a role we take seriously.
For those families out there, who are still waiting for closure and justice, all I can say is that some detective is doing their very best to ensure just that.
– JOSEPH GIACALONE, New York, New York
ED. NOTE: The author is a retired NYPD sergeant SDS, former commanding officer of the Bronx Cold Case Squad, and current adjunct professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan.