JEFFERSON — In the criminal justice system, cold cases are considered especially difficult. In Ashe County, the dedicated detectives who will investigate these frozen files will be members of a specialized squad new to the Ashe County Sheriff’s Office.
Ashe County Sheriff B. Phil Howell said the decision to form a dedicated cold case squad came from a common occurrence at the ACSO, retired law enforcement officers offering their services to the department. Howell said many of the people who have done this moved to Ashe County in retirement, or are just out of the business.
Chief Deputy Danny Houck is overseeing the squad, but said it’s still not all the way there yet.
“The cold case squad is just in the infancy stage,” Houck said. “We have one retired FBI guy and a retired South Carolina guy, just wanting to help out. What we would like for these guys to look over our cold cases with a fresh set of eyes.”
Houck specifically mentioned Lynn Bare and a recent situation in which a truck from Alexander County, which was linked to a homicide, was believed to be in Ashe. Howell mentioned that during the formation of the squad, he spoke with the mother of Tim Shatley, who was killed in 2004 and whose case has since gone cold.
Howell said the members of the cold case squad will be working roughly four hours a week, and have already gone through some evidence to see if it can be resubmitted for DNA testing, since the technology has advanced so much since some of the cases were last looked at.
Ultimately, Houck and Howell both said the team will mostly rely on a fresh perspective to cases that have needed it for years. Both agreed that the goal is to give peace to the loved ones and justice for the victims.