Detective Heather Phillips: The one-woman shop to solve cold cases

By on October 5th, 2012

While shows like “CSI” may suggest that police departments have large investigation teams to solve disappearances like Christian Aguilar’s, that’s not often the case.

The Alachua County Sheriff’s Office Cold Case unit has one lone detective.

Detective Heather Phillips said most of her time consists of going through old files and familiarizing herself with old cases. She said unless an active lead is called in, “it’s not much to do out in the field.”

Phillips said cards with information about unsolved cases are sometimes distributed to prison inmates to elicit new information.

“They get dispersed to inmates through the prison system through the Department of Corrections, hoping that somebody in the prisons have heard or know somebody,” she said. “People talk in prisons and you know, they’re snitches, so we’re hoping that that will develop into some information.”

But DNA testing has contributed in big ways in helping solve cases, Phillips said.

“I have a couple cold cases from the ’70s, early ’80s and obviously it’s come a long ways since back then, so we’re able to do a lot more with the scientific evidence that comes in,” she said.

George Kamenov, a UF associate in geological sciences, has been helping law enforcement with analysis of bone and hair samples for about a year. He has analyzed about 12 cases.

Kamenov recently worked on identifying the woman known as Little Miss Lake Panasoffkee, determining that she was from a country in Southern Europe. Experts had previously thought that she was Indian or South Floridian.

Kelly Price edited this story online.


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