Helping on cold cases


A program at a New Mexico college will soon offer a course that will teach criminal justice students how to help in re-examining cold cases.

Central New Mexico Community College (CNM) is launching at the end of this month a cold case class in partnership with the New Mexico State Police. Criminal justice students will digitize older cold case files and analyze them to identify any gaps that investigators may want to consider.

“We’ve been developing this class over the last two years, and we’re so glad to have our first cohort start this summer term,” says John Solomon, CNM criminal justice program director and instructor. “This is a very unique opportunity for our students to live out the ideal of relentlessly seeking truth and justice.”

Starting point

Solomon started developing the class back in 2021 when he became the criminal justice program director. As the new director, he was asked to find innovative ways to advance CNM’s criminal justice program and found inspiration from a four-year institution in Michigan that developed and launched a successful cold case class.

With the guidance of the lead instructor from the university in Michigan, John got to work on developing a similar class for CNM and contacted the New Mexico State Police Department to gauge their interest.

“The state police were very excited to partner with CNM, which was critical to this course getting off the ground,” Solomon says. “They have numerous cold cases and a limited amount of staff to work on them, so it’s a win-win for everyone.”

Polishing up the prep work

During the 14-week course, a selected cohort of criminal justice students will review and digitize the files of one cold case. Along with scanning all of the files associated with the case, which can include everything from official police reports to receipts, the students will write an abstract of each file so it is easily searchable.

Once the files are digitized, the students will analyze the files and identify any gaps the cold case investigators may want to follow up on.

“The final project for this class is an analysis of the files that will include suggestions investigators can act on, like following up with an eye witness or sending a piece of evidence for testing,” Solomon explains. “The students won’t be testifying in court or chasing down leads themselves, but they are playing a critical role in helping ensure every detail of a case is accessible and usable, which could ultimately help the state police make a connection they hadn’t been able to before.”

As Solomon prepares to welcome the first cold case cohort on April 29, he couldn’t be more excited to see this course come to life.

“With cold cases, you can’t find a solution until you find the beginning, and I’m really proud and grateful to help the state police and the community uncover those beginnings while also serving our students,” he says.

About the Author

Alaina Africano
Alaina Africano is a content creation specialist at Central New Mexico Community College.
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