FDLE Fort Myers Region launches cold case homicide team
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement Fort Myers Regional Operations Center today announced plans to implement a cold case homicide initiative to help local law enforcement agencies resolve unsolved cases in the Southwest Florida area. The initiative, called Specialized Multi-Agency Review Team, or SMART, will bring a team of experts together to review and analyze cold cases in an effort to identify and prosecute the perpetrator and bring closure to the families of the victims.
“Budget restrictions and lack of resources can sometimes limit local law enforcement agencies from being able to focus their attention on cold cases,” said Special Agent in Charge E.J. Picolo. “The SMART initiative offers local law enforcement a new and innovative approach. The initiative provides a pool of experts, with investigative, forensic and technological expertise, to help bring closure to cases that have gone unsolved for far too long.”
The new initiative will be coordinated out of FDLE’s Sebring Field Office and will concentrate on cold case homicides in Hendry, Highlands, Glades, Desoto and Okeechobee counties. According to an informal survey FDLE conducted among local law enforcement agencies, there are approximately 19 unsolved homicides in the five-county region.
One of the cases slated to be reviewed is the 1996 murder of Darlene Powell. Powell was found in an abandoned warehouse beaten to death. The murder remains unsolved and no arrest has been made. In June 2007, the Sebring Police Department and the FDLE Sebring Field Office reopened the investigation. Several leads have been developed and are being followed.
The SMART initiative will work as a multi-phase, multi-agency approach that can be applied to not only cold case homicides but other types of cold cases as well. During the first phase, the local law enforcement agency will assign an investigator to work in concert with an FDLE liaison. The two members will complete a full review and examination of the case and pursue any newly developed leads. If the initial phase fails to resolve the cold case, the case will then be reviewed by a panel of experts including veteran homicide investigators, crime scene experts, medical examiners, prosecutors, criminal profilers, criminal intelligence analysts, legal advisors, forensic experts and crime-line representatives.
Local agencies may request assistance of SMART by calling the FDLE Sebring Field Office at 863-863-6085. Retired homicide investigators interested in participating on the panel may also call the Sebring Field Office for more information.