PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Neronha is pushing to create a statewide cold case unit.
Neronha has requested an additional $300,000 from the state to launch the cold case unit, which he believes is long overdue.
The cold case unit would consist of at least two prosecutors and two investigators, according to Neronha, who testified before the House Subcommittee on Public Safety Thursday evening.
Neronha said right now, his office doesn’t have the resources to take on cold cases.
“We can’t do cold cases when my prosecutors are handling 300 cases each,” he told lawmakers.
Lauren Malloy, founder of Unsolved RI, also testified in favor of the creation of a statewide cold case unit.
“Our state’s law enforcement officers and investigators do not have the resources needed to tackle [these cases] on their own,” Malloy said.
Malloy’s mother, Lori Lee Malloy, was found dead on the bathroom floor of her East Providence apartment more than two decades ago. The state medical examiner initially determined the 30-year-old had died from natural causes, leading detectives to close the case.
“I didn’t know about [my mother’s] case until 2020, but when I learned what had happened to her my first instinct was to look up ‘RI cold case unit,'” she said. “To my surprise, a statewide unit did not exist.”
That’s when Malloy took it upon herself to conduct her own investigation, which led to her mother’s case being reopened last fall.
“My mom’s case was assigned to a prosecutor within the criminal division, but because of their overwhelming caseload, the office was unable to immediately investigate,” she said.
Malloy pointed to the success of the “Unidentified Bodies Project,” which the Bristol County District Attorney’s Office launched last summer.
“Cold cases were once thought to be unsolvable, but this is no longer true,” Malloy said. “Today’s technology, coupled with lessons learned from other cases, empowers investigators to solve the unsolvable and crush cold case back logs.”
Neronha said a statewide cold case unit would provide justice for victims and closure for their families.
“We need a devoted unit,” he told 12 News in an interview earlier this month. “There are families waiting for answers that we can provide them, and we just need the resources to be able to do that.”