We wanted something done about the unsolved murders of our loved ones. We heard about a group in California that put up billboards offering rewards of $50,000, funded by the state, for leads in unsolved murders and featuring victims' pictures. We wanted to do that here in Colorado.
We decided to ask the state for help with the rewards. Eleven of us whose loved ones were lost to an unresolved homicide, went to the Division of Criminal Justice in the Department of Public Safety and told our stories to Director Ray Slaughter and his associate, Rob Gallup. But they told us there was no chance the state would participate in the reward as California had done.
Among our group of co-vicims were Lieurance & Shirley Sullivan, parents of murdered lawyer Polly Sullivan, who had hired a plane to pull a sign reading “Justice for Polly” as it flew over Mile High Stadium during a football game. The Sullivan's invited a Channel 9 reporter to accompany us. Also present were Tony & Grace Winberg whose young daughter, Karla Winberg, had been killed during a bank robbery. The Winbergs told how, following a fruitless investigation, a reward offer by a Denver TV station a year after the murder had brought forth a young man who fingered his uncle, a bank guard, as the killer. That lead resulted in a conviction. We wanted that for our cold cases.
FOHVAMP’s founding group included Don, Jerri & Mark Reichert who later put up our first billboard on West Colfax at the scene of the crime offering (out of their own pocket) a $50,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and prosecution of Michael Reichert’s killer. Also members of that group were the parents of murder victim Guy Oliver Morton, Howard & Virginia Morton. Howard would become FOHVAMP's 1st President and later - our Executive Director. Click here to read the Morton's story.
Getting Away With Murder in Colorado
Colorado has a backlog of 1,600 unsolved murders dating back to 1970. The killers of these victims have never been prosecuted for these murders. They walk among us. They live in our neighborhoods. These murderers, who have escaped justice, pose a serious threat to the safety of every Colorado citizen.
Murder is a crime against the state. FOHVAMP maintains that when a case cannot be solved by local law enforcement in a reasonable period of time, the state has an obligation to step in.
For the past five years FOHVAMP has advocated a state-level cold case team to help investigate these unsolved homicides. The state bureaucracy has been unresponsive. In 2007, the legislature created a cold case team at Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI) with only enough funding for a single analyst to collect data from law enforcement agencies.
FOHVAMP and CBI make periodic comparisons to insure the accuracy of that data.
Since 2001 FOHVAMP has advocated for the families of cold case homicide victims and persons missing under suspicious circumstances in Colorado. By bringing together families and friends united by a common tragedy, FOHVAMP mentors these individuals seeking justice for their loved ones.
- Publish Victim Rights for Co-Victims of Unsolved Homicides
- Finding, contacting and offering services to family members and friends of the victim
- Out of our collective experience, we give guidance: to family members about dealing with law enforcement; to law enforcement about dealing with co-victims of cold cases
- Assisting family members seeking to publicize their unsolved murders; acting as spokesman for co-victims of unsolved murders
- Maintaining and managing a website where co-victims can find us and learn about FOHVAMP
- Making accessible to the public a database of all Colorado's unsolved murders
- Sending co-victims a remembrance card on the anniversary date of their victims' murder or disappearance
- Organizing Annual Meetings, workshops and forums to bring law enforcement and family members together for discussion of issues of common interest relating to these murders
- Advocating for cold case co-victims at the state and local levels
- Launched 10 billboards near scene of crime featuring 12 cold case victims and offering rewards for information leading to arrest and prosecution.
- Assembled data over a six year period of every victim of an unsolved Colorado murder dating back to 1970
- Joined with COVA to amend the Victim Rights Act to recognize needs of cold case families
- CRS 24-33.5-425. Cold case homicide team. FOHVAMP helped bring about a Cold Case Task Force in the Department of Public Safety and required CBI to maintain a database of unsolved murders. This law requires all law enforcement agencies to report unsolved murders to CBI that have been open for three years or more. It also allows cold case family members to ask local agencies to call in CBI’s cold case homicide team to assist with their investigation. If the agency declines, it must send a written explanation to the family member.
- Found and reached out to over 1000 friends and family members of cold case victims in nine years
- Collaborated with Colorado State University’s Center for the Study of Crime and Justice to provide guidance to law enforcement agencies about improving communications with cold case co-victims
- Sponsored research and developed training power-point for law enforcement to help improve communications with families of cold case murder victims.
- Amended the Victim Compensation Act so that Cold Case families are clearly eligible for Victim Compensation. Previously the rules required family members to apply for victim comp within one year. Since families frequently suffer secondary victimization due to lack of information from law enforcement that would allow them to make sense of the murder of their loved one, the act was amended at our request with this clarification: (f) The application for an award of compensation under this part 1 is filed with the board within one year of the date of injury to the victim or within such further extension of time as the board, for good cause shown, allows. For purposes of this paragraph (f), "good cause" may include but is not limited to circumstances in which a crime has remained unsolved for more than one year.
- Create a State Cold Case Team to effectively address the growing number* of unresolved homicides and suspicious cases of long-time missing persons [*Currently 1,500 victims]
Robert M. Wells
Cmdr. Ronald Saunier
Advisory Board Chairman
Advisory Board Members
N.Prabha Unnithan, PHD Professor, Colorado State University