(WPRI) — The room is in Rhode Island. Eyewitness News can report that, but nothing more specific.
It’s on a street corner, in a nondescript building.
What takes place inside is groundbreaking.
Every two weeks, cold-case detectives from departments across the state pool their resources to track down each and every murderer in Rhode Island.
“This small state is doing a lot,” Central Falls Detective Jeff Araujo said.
“You have a broad range of experience in there,” Pawtucket investigator Sue Cormier said.
Cormier created the Cold Case Task Force after launching the cold case cards in November. They’re charged with solving the state’s most unsolvable cases.
Forensic psychologists, medical examiners, scientists, probation officers, and even a forensic odontologist meet with detectives at the meetings to offer input and advice.
One of their secret weapons is Australian Criminologist Dr. David Keatley. He teaches at Murdoch University in Perth. He’s an expert in the motivations of criminals, behavioral analysis, and interrogation responses. He’s consulted on cold cases investigation in Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States.
“I don’t solve cold cases,” Keatley said. “The detectives—the hard-working and dedicated detectives—solve them. I’m very happy to offer advice along the way or nudge them in the right direction but they’re the ones that solve the case.”
Keatley said he travels to Rhode Island to consult the task force five or six times a year.
“Around the world, they’re probably the leading group to invite outside help to solve those cases,” he added. “I have not come across another group of such a wide diversity of detectives from different departments across an area that have that size and critical mass but again, invite an academic like me and listen to them.”
“We’re only benefiting,” Araujo said. “All of us.”
Araujo has already presented three of his investigations to the task force.
“We’re trying to brainstorm ideas,” he said. “What would you do as a detective? What would you do as a forensic scientist? What would you do or what do you see as a medical examiner?”
Lincoln Detective Sean Gorman said he is looking forward to presenting his investigation into the murder of Rosanne Robinson.
“The amount of resources you have, the amount of knowledge you have, and it’s all coming together in one room. It’s just crazy,” Gorman said. “Everyone spitballing comments. It’s a roundtable. It’s not just one person talking. It’s just non-stop ideas. It’s fantastic.”
Cormier said it has already lead to strides in a handful of investigations.
“A lot of times, a detective came into the meeting that night with not a lot of leads and things to go on, and leaves that meeting with a laundry list of things that still could be done,” she said.
“Every fresh pair of eyes can show just a slightly different take,” Keatley said.
When asked if the task force would eventually lead to arrests in Rhode Island cold cases, they all answered the same: “Absolutely.”