Attorney General Bird asks legislature for money for new Iowa cold case unit

DES MOINES — Attorney General Brenna Bird is asking the legislature for over half a million dollars to start a cold case unit in the Iowa Department of Justice.

“There are 585 unsolved cold cases in Iowa,” Bird said during a House Appropriations Subcommittee hearing Monday. “About 400 of them could be considered active cold cases.”

Bird proposes hiring three investigators and a prosecutor to dig into those unsolved murders.

“It’s important that we’re always trying to solve these cases because over time new evidence can come to light,” Bird said. “There’s new science available for DNA, but also witnesses after the passage of time may choose to come forward if they’re not as afraid of the person involved as they were in the past or if they have made changes in their life where they want to get certain things off their conscience that they know about.”

Bird is asking legislators for money to hire three other prosecutors for her office as well as a prosecutor to focus on so-called cold cases. “These cases are very difficult ones to try because of the passage of time,” Bird said, “so we do want the prosecutor involved from the beginning.”

The Iowa legislature voted to create a cold case unit in the Iowa Department of Public Safety in 2008, but never provided the money for it to operate. More than a decade ago, state officials used a federal grant to hire a couple of investigators and a lab technician to cull through cold cases.