Working cold cases in Franklin County

Working cold cases in Franklin County »Play Video
FRANKLIN COUNTY, Wash. - Jason Nunez is one of only two detectives working cold case files at the Franklin County Sheriff's office.

The murder of Ivah McDonnell tops the list. McDonnell was strangled in her own home more than 40 years ago. No one's ever been arrested. Can a case like McDonnell's ever be solved?

Det. Nunez said, "It depends, if we can dig up a really good lead than they can become high priority."

That's the hardest part. There's no money or resources set aside to close these cases. Detective Nunez works these files a little at a time.

One clue could turn a cold case suddenly hot.

Like the case of Lucia Vargas. She was murdered in the late 90's.
Deputies always suspected her husband.

Det. Nunez said, "We have no idea where he might be, he might have wound up in Mexico."

Extradition from another country can be lengthy and expensive, but not impossible.

Walls of boxes filled with evidence may hold the key piece to unlocking the puzzle.

Old evidence from cold cases are still maintained and stored in hopes that future technology will help detectives crack the case.

Most items are repackaged preserving what remains.

One of the items inside, the pajama bottoms used to strangle Ivah McDonnell. Deputies say new testing linked DNA on the clothing to a man already serving time in the state pen. Prosecutors may finally be able to charge someone in the case.

For Detective Nunez, solving the old cases can be the most satisfying.

"This job does become personal," Nunez said.

Working to bring families peace and closure even decades later.

The Franklin County Sheriff's Department also continues to work cold cases involving assaults and rapes.

Detectives credit better training and practices in their progress on these as well.