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What is the "Cold Case Homicide Unit"?

The Winston-Salem Police Department cold case homicide unit is comprised of (2) assigned Detectives who work under the supervision of the Homicide section Sergeant and Lieutenant. They work closely with the Medical Examiner’s Office, the District Attorney’s Office, crime and intelligence analysts, and any other office that may provide additional support in working towards the goal of resolving an unsolved homicide. These Detectives' primary responsibility is to work on unsolved homicide cases that are more than (3) years old. The cases worked on will meet established criteria. Cases to be reviewed will include those with physical evidence, availability of complete records, and the highest likelihood of solvability based on investigative leads. «Back to Top»


When does an unsolved case become a “cold case”?


Typically, all cases are worked by the original assigned Detective for a period of up to (3) years. At that time, if all known leads have been exhausted and no additional leads are known, the case can be transferred to the cold case homicide unit. This is not always a hard rule. If the original Detective is still assigned to the Homicide Section or additional leads are known, they will retain the investigation until all leads are exhausted. «Back to Top»


How are unsolved homicide investigations assigned?


When the case is assigned to the cold case homicide section, all leads have been exhausted and no additional investigative information is known. At that point, the case will be transferred to the cold case homicide unit for review. Cases will be assigned as new information is developed or if during the review process, unresolved leads are developed or additional investigation is deemed necessary. Unsolved cases will be reviewed and will include cases when the original Detective is no longer assigned to the Homicide section. Not all cases will be selected for review and not all cold case homicide investigations will be selected. «Back to Top»


How do cases get reviewed?


The cold case homicide unit will keep an accurate list of unsolved homicide investigations in Winston-Salem — going back as far as records are available. The review process is systematic. As time allows, cases will be reviewed in reverse order. This is a slow and tedious process that will evolve continually. This review process will encompass the availability of reports, photographs, autopsy reports, evidence, and the application of new (i.e., DNA) technology pertaining to the evidence. After review, solvability factors will guide which cases are selected for further investigation, and those new leads will be followed-up on. Newly-developed forensic evidence, information, or an inquiry by an outside law enforcement agency may pull any case out of turn for review. «Back to Top»


How do I get someone assigned to work on my loved-one’s case?


The first step is to provide an inclusive list of all unsolved homicides. This list is now available on the police department website for informational purposes. Contact information to request a review is via the TIPS form which is attached to this website. The next step is to complete a contact sheet (TIPS form) if you have any new information to provide. Once this information is received, we will check on the status of the case and determine if the information is new or beneficial. How quickly the new information is reviewed will be based on the current workload and the complexity of the information shared. The more information provided, the more valuable the information may be.


If previously not available, the Cold Case Homicide Unit Detectives will be requesting a photograph of your loved one to attach to the case information. This photograph can either be mailed or e-mailed. (If mailed, a copy will be made and the original can be returned to the sender.) The photograph may be posted on the Unsolved Homicide website and attached to the “featured” case when selected.


Once the review process is complete, the Cold Case Homicide Unit may meet with family members to further discuss the case. This does not mean that the case will be automatically re-assigned for additional investigation. During this meeting, we will discuss the current status of the cases as well as possible investigative options.


Cases that are not chosen for additional active investigation will await new leads or tips that may justify further follow-up investigation. «Back to Top»


Can a reward be offered in my loved-one’s case?


The Winston-Salem CrimeStoppers program offers rewards up to $2,000 leading to the arrest and conviction of persons responsible for a homicide that occurs within the city limits of Winston-Salem. Please visit the Winston-Salem CrimeStoppers site for further information on that program. Any additional rewards will be coordinated through that program. CrimeStoppers can be reached at (336) 727-2800 or the Spanish line at (336) 728-3904. «Back to Top»


With the unsolved homicide occurring in past years, we are still hurting. Can anything be done to help us through the difficult times?


You are not alone. Even if the murder happened years ago, many people feel that it just happened yesterday. Family and friends may be eligible for all sorts of programs including compensation, free counseling, and other services. Additionally, there are victim support groups made up of people who may be just like you. They not only provide support and advice, they allow you to assist others who are just now going through what you have experienced. These specialists are highly trained professionals skilled in assisting the survivors of homicides through the aftermath of the crime and in locating and utilizing resources. For further information about these services and groups, please contact the Winston-Salem Police Department Victim’s Assistance Unit at telephone number (336) 773-7865 and learn what else can they provide. «Back to Top»

What else can be done to help solve our loved-one’s case?


The most important thing to do is to keep your eyes and ears open. We have found that people who may have information will frequently approach family members and others and tell what they know prior to contacting the police. Pass this information along to us — no matter how insufficient it may seem to you.


Get us a photograph of your loved one in life so we can post it on the web site and use the photograph in featured articles about the homicide and to assist in creating rewards in attempts to get the information needed to solve the case.


Don’t be afraid to discuss your loved one’s shortcomings at the time of their death. These facts do not minimize their death, but may lead to an accurate account of their lifestyle which may lead to the suspect(s) and motive. «Back to Top»


Who do I contact?



Call the Cold Case Homicide Unit TIPS line: (336) 726-2039

Fill out the online TIPS form

Or e-mail us at

Lieutenant L. S. Smith Sergeant R. G. Cozart
Detective M. C. Rowe Detective M. S. Lovejoy




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