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Cedar Rapids Police Continue To Pursue 'Cold Cases'

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa -- Police are still searching for clues one year after 90-year-old Matthew Owen was found murdered on Gas Light Court SW in Cedar Rapids -- just one of the 20 unsolved murder cases Cedar Rapids police are trying to solve.

The cases span 55 years, but police haven't given up hope that one day they might get a break and catch the person responsible for any one of the murders.

The police department has two retired officers who volunteer their time on a regular basis to comb through the cold case files, looking for any clue or gap that might lead police to an arrest.

Just last year, Cedar Rapids Police had a break in a 14-year-old murder case. Deshaun Phillips was arrested for killing Judith Weeks in 1999.

In 2006 Cedar Rapids Police announced they had a lead in the 1979 murder of Michelle Martinko, an 18-year-old high school student found stabbed to death in the parking lot of Westdale Mall.

Using technology not available in 1979, police found DNA evidence, but there's still been no arrest because they haven't been able to match that DNA to a suspect -- proof that even DNA can't always solve a case.

Lack of sufficient evidence and witnesses who are unwilling to talk can often be big roadblocks for authorities.

"In many of these cases, while they're unresolved, we've got a pretty good idea who committed the crimes, but we need those extra pieces of information to put this through," said Cedar Rapids Police Capt. Captain Steve O'Konek. "So if people have that information we need to talk to them, "

O'Konek says there's a difference between knowing who committed a crime and being able to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt. He says re-interviewing witnesses and re-examining evidence are part of the process when looking at cold case files.

Sometimes witnesses who weren't willing to talk when the murder occurred will cooperate years later. Police say what may seem like an insignificant piece of information can help put the puzzle together and solve the crime.

If you have any information on one of the city's 20 unsolved murders, you're encouraged to contact authorities.

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