(Focus Investigation Team)
Michigan State Police Trooper Scott Ernestes and Allegan County Sheriff's Detective Pat O'Reilly follow up on leads.
NOTE: As of July 30, 2010 this team is discontinued due to insufficient staff/funds.
With the recent progress in forensic science, many cases that were previously unable to be solved are now being given a second look. The Focus Investigation Team (FIT) was created to address the most serious of these cases. The Team’s mission is to utilize a multi-jurisdictional approach to investigate cold case homicides and missing person’s cases, to bring closure to families and loved ones, and to bring the perpetrator(s) to justice. The Team’s motto is “Justice delayed, not denied”.
The Team was created in April of 2008 with input from all of Allegan County’s policing agencies, who were asked to submit their open missing persons and homicide cases. In all, eleven cases were submitted to the Team for possible investigation.
The Team utilizes a multiple-format approach to solve the cases. This approach consists of the use of new forensic science such as DNA, a repeat search for physical evidence, and interviews. The Team typically works on a single case at a time, until it is either solved, or it is determined that nothing more can be done at this time, such as when waiting for laboratory analysis. At the current time, two cases are open pending lab results, and one is under active investigation.
In keeping with the multi-jurisdictional foundation, some of the training for the Team was provided by the Kalamazoo Area Cold Case Team, the Kalamazoo County Prosecutor’s Office and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service Cold Case Unit. Resources were also provided by a multitude of other agencies and groups including the Michigan State Police-Bay City Post, the Wyoming Police Department, the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety, the Holland Police Department, the Zeeland Police Department, and the Kent County Sheriff’s Department, as well as the Allegan County Area Metal Detector’s Club and the Michigan Department of Transportation.
During a portion of the Team’s first eight months, it consisted of four full-time Officers and one part-time Officer. These included members of the Michigan State Police-Wayland Post, the Allegan County Sheriff’s Office, the Allegan City Police Department and Saugatuck/Douglas Police Department.
The latest Team consisted of two officers who were assigned to the Team full-time, and two who were assigned part-time. Officers were from the Michigan State Police-Wayland Post, the Allegan County Sheriff’s Office, and the Otsego Police Department. A Lieutenant and a Records Clerk from the Sheriff’s Office also provided support to the Team.
During its first eight months of operation, the Team was able to close three cold cases. One was resolved—determined to have been an accident and two others resulted in the arrest of four persons on murder charges.
The Doe Network (International Center for Unidentified and Missing Persons)