My Display

The last two paragraphs of this article dated June 6, 1980 in “The Chronicle” is referring to Patrica Vance.  The alias she used is listed instead of her real name. Furthermore, the age is incorrect. She was 18 at the time. She was using a false ID. I want to post pieces on this blog in the same way Paulette Brown has used a physical display to draw attention to her son’s cold case.Patricia Vance Chronicle Article

A while back I blogged about this young man who is a cold case at the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD). Ms. Brown sets up a display with photographs of her son at the intersection near where she lives every year on his birthday. I’ve seen photographs of her display set up outside San Francisco City Hall on another occasion. I mean, my blog is not the equivalent in scale as her mission. And I didn’t have the same sort of relationship with Patty as Ms. Brown did with her son. I just see a small parallel in intention. I want to draw attention to my friend’s cold case.  She wants to draw attention to her son’s case. There’s a big difference also in that Patricia Vance’s cold case is much, much older. Twenty six years older to be exact. 

I wish I had the drive that Ms. Brown has, that I might push a little harder. Pushing a little harder has helped in the past. Even just phoning and rephoning the detectives when they wouldn’t return my calls felt like a bit of a push to me. 

Some people who have read pieces of my writing on this have wondered about why such a long stretch of time often goes by before I take action again. For example, the year long lapse between my phone calls to the SFPD puzzled some readers. I wanted to explain the concept of cold case time to them. I grabbed this quote off

Lack of evidence, lack of witnesses and lack of technology are just some of the factors that can converge to make a case difficult, if not impossible, to solve within a reasonably quick timeframe.

Okay, that bolding in the last sentence is mine. Furthermore, because homicides aren’t considered closed until there is a final determination and finding, detectives aren’t up against a time constraint. 

What “cold case” actually translates to is the reality that although a case remains open, detectives have stopped actively working the file. Cold case departments are established for the very reason that detectives generally don’t have the time to lay a new set of eyes on very old cases when they don’t even have the time or support to handle current cases. So, cold case detectives should be dedicated exclusively to investigate these older, unsolved cases actively.

To be fair, it sounds like that’s what the SFPD detective is doing. But it also sounds like he’s working on cold case time. Another way to explain this is that cold case investigators “may initiate periodic reviews of cases to see if anything may have been overlooked or if any new information might be available. If so, they’ll pursue those new leads and see where they take them in hopes of bringing some resolution,” again, according to

If the expectation is that SFPD reviews the old files and conducts new interviews  then they’ve done all that. That are seemingly expert at dotting their i-s and crossing their t-s. At least now they are. I guess I should be glad that my friend was murdered in a large metropolitan city, or there would likely be no dedicated cold case unit to work on her case. I am glad.

I also am grateful that the detectives assigned to dedicated cold case units are experience, seasoned criminal investigators. I should have faith that if anyone can solve her case, it’s them. If that ever happens (and it’s seeming more and more unlikely), however, it’s going to happen in cold case time. Think molasses.



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