INDIANAPOLIS — When cases go cold, many families lose hope that the person, or persons, responsible for the death of their loved one will be brought to justice. The latest statistic from the FBI says 40 percent of homicides go unsolved. That is something Ashley Flowers, host of the popular podcast Crime Junkie, is hoping to change. She's launched a nonprofit, Season of Justice, to offer grants to law enforcement and families to help solve cold cases.
Law enforcement officials can apply for grants to utilize advanced DNA testing, such as forensic genealogy and next-generation sequencing. Law enforcement from across the United States and Canada can apply. Crime victims and their families can apply for grants to fund awareness campaigns, search teams and other initiatives that can assist in pushing their cases forward.
"I can't image going through a tragedy, losing a family member, and it not going anywhere and just giving up because it was a long time ago. To me, they're just as relevant now as the day they were when it happened," Flowers said.
Through her work, Flowers has seen how difficult it is to get cold cases solved.
"I saw that a lot of the funding went to the newest cases, the stuff they had the highest likelihood of solving," she said. "If it's a man power issue, I can't fix that but the other issue was a funding issue which I knew I could fix. I knew I could find the funds. I just needed a way to get it into the right hands through the appropriate channels."
Season of Justice has already provided more than $226,000 for 31 cases. Some of that money is going to an unsolved case IMPD Homicide Branch Commander Captain Roger Spurgeon is hoping to solve.
"We've got some scene DNA that we're trying to match to a particular suspect and it's not a straight line to get there," Captain Spurgeon said. He tells WRTV, they're trying to identify this suspect by going through DNA of potential relatives.
"It's a very time consuming and an expensive proposition to try. It's a not a normal thing that police agencies do." The grant from Season of Justice is helping fund this advanced DNA technology work. It's something that isn't normally included in budgets for police departments. While Captain Spurgeon couldn't go into details about the cold case, he says solving it would bring closure to the family and community.
"If it was solved next year, I think most people that are in their adult years would at least have the ability to remember the case when it happened," he said.
Knowing Season of Justice could help solve cold cases is fulfilling to Flowers. She hopes the work she's doing with this nonprofit, her podcast, and media company, inspires others to make a difference where they live.
"I would love for the people out there who are like me to recognize there's something they can do. You don't have to be the cold case detective to find a way to make a difference. We've harnessed our audience to sign petitions, send letters to government agencies and people in power to make real change."