Sheriff’s office revives investigation of 1968 disappearance
April 6, 2009
By Warren Kagarise
New cold case squad sets sights on missing Tiger Mountain child
The detective who arrested the Green River killer will work to solve nearly 200 cold cases, including the disappearance of an 8-year-old Issaquah boy who vanished four decades ago.
Retired King County Sheriff’s Office Detective Tom Jensen — who arrested serial killer Gary Ridgway in November 2001 — is part of a new, three-member Cold Case Squad formed by the sheriff’s office and backed by a federal grant. Jensen serves as a civilian analyst.
Investigators will examine 193 homicides and missing-persons cases dating back to 1942. The squad will review the unsolved disappearance of 8-year-old David Adams, who went missing May 3, 1968, while hiking on Tiger Mountain with his brothers and sisters. More than 1,000 searchers combed the mountainside in the days following his disappearance, but David was never found.Residents speculated whether David had fallen down an old coalmine shaft, or if an animal had attacked the boy and dragged him off. Others wondered if David ran away.
But Sgt. John Urquhart, sheriff’s office spokesman, said David was likely abducted: “It’s very unlikely a cougar dragged him, or that he ran away, which is unlikely at age 8.”
Detective Scott Tompkins, a member of the cold case team, said investigators will determine whether DNA testing and other techniques unavailable in 1968 could aid the investigation. Jensen, Tompkins and Detective Jake Pavlovich will also look at crimes committed by people connected to the case in the years since the disappearance.
Despite the advances in techniques and technology, Urquhart said old-fashioned “gumshoe detective work” would be crucial to the cold-case investigations. Since the unit began work in January, Tompkins contacted David’s father to request photos of the boy to use on bulletins and an agency Web site devoted to the cases.
Challenges abound for investigators as they seek to unravel cold cases. Evidence gathered in the era before DNA testing may have been contaminated, mishandled or improperly stored. Memories of cases fade and witnesses die.
But the passage of time can also push people with information about a case to talk.
“As many cold cases get solved by people talking as they do by DNA,” Urquhart said.
Investigators said people with information are more likely to come forward as they get older and begin to worry about their mortality.
“Maybe they’re on their deathbed and they want to make it right,” Urquhart said.
Tompkins said people once connected to potential suspects, such as ex-wives and former cellmates, often yield valuable information because the potential suspects confided in them. As time passes, “loyalties change and people are more willing to disclose information,” he added.
Because investigators face so many cold cases, each will be reviewed based on the status of possible suspects, witnesses and evidence, as well as possible threats to the community.
“There’s no way we can actively investigate 193 cases,” Urquhart said.
The sheriff’s office established the Cold Case Squad with a $500,000 grant from the National Institute of Justice, part of the federal Department of Justice. The grant, which will fund the squad for 18 months, covers personnel costs and expenses associated with the investigations.
The grant is eligible for renewal. Evaluators will decide if the squad was productive and is likely to solve additional cases.
Before the cold case unit was established, each detective from the sheriff’s office Major Crimes Unit was assigned to a handful of cold cases. Urquhart said their workload of active cases often prevented them digging deep into the old files. He said solving the cold cases is paramount.
“If we can’t solve it, we have failed,” Urquhart said. “We’ve failed the victim and we’ve failed society.”
On the Web
Learn more about the King County Sheriff’s Office Cold Case Squad at www.kingcounty.gov/safety/sheriff. Follow the link for “Cold Case Investigations.”
Reach Reporter Warren Kagarise at 392-6434, ext. 234, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment on this story at www.issaquahpress.com.