Special Report: Cold Cases in the Basin

Special Report: Cold Cases in the Basin

By Geena Martinez
NewsWest 9

ODESSA - It's something law enforcement officials never want to happen. Investigators checking into every lead then suddenly then case goes cold.

When that case involves a missing person, time means everything.

Locked in a cabinet in the Criminal Investigations Unit of the Odessa Police Department sits several cases that have gone cold. Many of them are cases involving missing people.

You can find their pictures on the Odessa Crime Stoppers website and over at the police department. You can find Odessa detectives determined to find answers.

"We take it personally," Sgt. Daryl Smith, said. "I can tell you right now we don't want a cold case on our shift or our tenure."

Sgt. Smith said a case goes cold once they've exhausted all their leads.

"They sit in a file until we get information," he said.

But sometimes, the wait for information can span years and even decades.

Jeanette Drzewiecki hasn't been seen in almost 31 years.

According to the Crime Stoppers website, she worked as a stripper and had a baby just days before she vanished. Investigators suspect foul play.

Judie Mungia disappeared 32 years ago. She was supposedly going to visit a friend in Oklahoma. Her car was found in an airport parking lot but there was no sign of Judie. Foul play is also suspected.

Kristy Lynne Boothe went missing in 1980. Police located her car on Rankin Highway but Kristy was nowhere to be found.

The files are thick. Some can have two or three binders full of information.

Every detective who handles a cold case has to pore over every bit of information in those binders.

Sometimes the case is passed down to multiple detectives and we're told that can actually help.

"When they do that, they may find something the other detective didn't find," Sgt. Smith said.

He said these cold cases are waiting for the right tip to come forward.

"Some are credible, some are not," Sgt. Smith said. "We just have to weigh them out. Those that seem credible we follow up those leads."

That's what happened in the case for Rene Sanchez.

He was missing for four years before a man named Jesus Venegas came forward and confessed to killing him and dumping his body somewhere in West Odessa.

Still, no remains have been found.

For all of these families and others, there are still questions unanswered.

"Those are people that there are family members out there that still have no clue what has happened," Susan Rogers, with Odessa Crime Stoppers, said. "They need closure in those cases."

Rogers said she has been in contact with some of those families.

"That hope is still there," she said. "I think in the back of their minds they know that after a while they're probably not gonna see their loved one again but that hope is still there."

Rogers and Sgt. Smith said the families never give up.

"Some families are good and on the anniversaries they call us and ask if there's anything new," Sgt. Smith said.

"It's hard for us because you want so badly to be able to tell them something different," Rogers said.

Investigators said they too have hope that one day the cases will be solved.

"I can't tell you how many times it's been just a little piece of information, it was that piece that tied it all together," Rogers said.

If you think you might have information that could solve a cold case, you're asked to call Odessa Crime Stoppers at 432-333-TIPS.