Regional News

PPB Brings Back Cold Case Unit

(Portland, OR)  --  Two years after Portland Police dissolved its Cold Case Unit, the division has returned. It was originally formed in 2004, to utilize new investigative technologies that could be applied to unsolved cases dating back to the 1960s. Despite solving more than 50 homicides over 18 years, it disbanded in 2022 because the bureau faced cuts from retirements, COVID and civil unrest.

PPB is one of eight agencies around the country to receive a National Sexual Assault Kit Initiative grant. Portland received $2.5 million to fund four detectives and provide $300,000 to conduct Forensic Genetic Genealogy testing. Homicides will be the top priority for the unit. Violent crimes will be prioritized based on time remaining on the statute of limitations. "We are, to the best of our ability, very committed to trying to find resolutions and answers for folks. And this grant, at a time of limited resources, limited capabilities, is going to be a huge, huge asset for us," says Portland Police Chief Bob Day.

It’s been almost seven years since Brian Spaulding failed to show up for work. His father George Spaulding told reporters Wednesday, "So, we went over to do a welfare check on him and my wife and I found him shot to death. Worst day of my life." His June 2017 murder is among hundreds of unsolved Portland homicides likely to get another look by the unit. "We can’t bring him back. But Brian was a great believer in personal responsibility. And, there should be some justice in his case."

Brendan McGuire is one of the four detectives brought back from the brink of retirement to join the unit, hoping to take advantage of forensic techniques developed in just the last few years, "They can get DNA from hair samples with no roots. Historically, all my career, we’ve been told that if a hair sample didn’t have the root from the hair, you’re not getting any DNA from it. So, there’s homicides going back all those years, where detectives operated under that working theory, that we can re-look at now." Det. McGuire is grateful for the grant, "This does give us three years. Hopefully we can maybe extend it beyond that, to keep going. Ultimately, our goal is to bring as many of our unsolved cases up to current investigative standards as we can. And by doing that, hopefully solve some and bring some resolution, some justice to the case and to the families."

Chief Day is also optimistic, "But I think it’s so important that we remember that what we’re attempting to do here is really provide that connection and that closure that is so deserving of the families."


photo: Portland Police Bureau Chief Bob Day Announces the return of the Cold Case Unit.

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