EYEWITNESS NEWS (WBRE/WYOU) — Should the public be asked to help pay for cold case investigations? A state lawmaker from our area says no.
In recent weeks we’ve heard about and reported on investigations in which so-called crowdfunding is being used to raise funds to help pay for lab testing in cold cases.
Crowdfunding is used to appeal to the public for financial donations that will help pay for hi-tech testing in these cases such as DNA testing.
But state Senator Lisa Baker insists while the public has stepped up to help, the commonwealth should be doing too financially to help law enforcement solve these cold cases.
“We should not be putting our hand out to the public to fund what is the core responsibility of government,” stated Senator Baker.
Senator Baker is reacting to recent cold case investigations in which the public can donate funds to help pay for expensive but necessary testing such as DNA testing.
The State police made an appeal last month to help solve the case of baby john doe. Who’s body was found in the former west side landfill in august of 1980.
State police and the Luzerne County District Attorney’s office partnered with Genomics Lab Othram incorporated, based in Texas, to help identify the baby boy and ask for donations.
Investigators say the effort will speed up the investigation rather than wait for the state’s budget process to move forward the effort raised $5,000 in several days but senator baker insists.
“I think it’s great that people have stepped forward but for the long term that’s our obligation as a commonwealth to support law enforcement support the families and support the victims,” explained Baker.
This week the Luzerne Foundation announced it was created the closing cases fund in partnership with the state police and District Attorney’s Office
The funds will help identify jane doe whose remains were discovered in Newport Township in November of 2012. Investigators say she could have been there since the 1960s.
Baker will introduce legislation that will help pay for these investigations.
“I’m calling on governor wolf to work with me and other members of the general assembly to create a dedicated line item in the state police budget for this purpose,” said Baker.
Dr. Kristen Mittelman from Othram Labs says crowdfunding is not unique to Pennsylvania.
“We’ve overcome all of the science barriers and what we see time and time again is that funding seems to be the last barrier to overcome. There’s just not enough funding to pay for solving these cases right now,” explained Mittelman.
Luzerne County District Attorney Sam Sanguedolce says cold case investigations involve two key factors.
“Money is I’d like to say it’s the paramount thing. The truth is not without the investigators actively analyzing these cases determining which cases give us the likelihood of success nothing else happens. Of course, part two is without the money nothing happens after that,” stated Sanguedolce.
Baker applauds the public and groups like the Luzerne Foundation for stepping up to help but insists the state should be DNA more to fund these investigations.
We reached out to the governor’s office and the state police for comment on Senator Baker’s efforts spokesperson for both offices said they will get back to us with a comment.