KANSAS CITY, Kan. — This month marks two years since the Kansas City, Kansas, Police Department launched its first-ever cold case unit.
It's the only one of its kind in the entire Kansas City area.
In two years, KCKPD has reviewed more than 50 cold cases.
Police have identified suspects in 12, and they've been able to clear five for a suspect to be arrested and charged.
KSHB 41 heard from the families of Sameemah Mussawir and Dion Estell in September. These cases are moving forward more than 25 years later.
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"These families need closure," said Khadijah Hardaway, co-founder of Justice for Wyandotte.
Before the cold case unit came to be, it bothered Hardaway that cases like Sameemah's just sat.
"Seeing her name on the list — Sameemah was murdered and found on my birthday," Hardaway said.
KCK detectives are focusing on clearing up past cases, and their caseload isn't light.
"We had somewhere in the neighborhood of 200-something cases when we went back about 50 years," KCK Police Chief Karl Oakman said.
The work of detectives from back then is still helping now.
"A newborn was found near a trash bin in 1976 and went close to 50 years not being identified," Oakman said. "Through work of a cold case detective, a blanket was recovered in 1976 and there was DNA. They identified the mother and identified the newborn."
Oakman believes the work of retracing someone's entire life is worth it for those families who've been waiting.
"It's rewarding when they're able to go to that loved [one] and say, 'This is what happened, this is who did it and they're going to pay.'"
KCK police said their homicide rate was down 33% last year.
They've had zero homicides in 2024 as of Jan. 30.
KCKPD's long-term goal for the cold case division is to maintain a high clearance rate so there aren't any cases that go cold.