Bringing Justice: Columbus Police Launch New Initiative to Solve Cold Case Murders

Bringing Justice: Columbus Police Launch New Initiative to Solve Cold Case Murders

By Kirsten J. Barnes

The Columbus Police Department has launched a new initiative to find suspects in dozens of unsolved murders.

Sgt. Sherman Hayes of the Violent Crimes Unit teamed with Kathryn Tyson, administrative specialist II, to spotlight cold cases monthly on its Facebook page.

“Every month, I highlight an unsolved homicide on our Facebook page,” Tyson said. We started it in March. It was Sgt. Hayes’s idea because he wanted to bring some awareness to the cases, and we collaborated and came up with a video once a month highlighting a certain case.”

Tyson and Hayes said the exposure has successfully uncovered new leads to old cases. 

“People, especially as fast-paced as Columbus is, people lose interest in cases. So, many of these unsolved homicides do sit and kind of dry up,” Tyson said. “So, highlighting them once a month is a pretty good way to get people talking again.”

Hayes said that after reaching out to other departments, including those in New York, Tampa, Fla., and Montgomery and Birmingham, Ala., he decided that social media was the way to get the results he sought.

This kind of talking leads to people deciding to do the right thing and come forward with new leads. After several years, relationships change, and so do allegiances. 

“Social media is the key form of communication today,” said Hayes, who has worked on more than 400 cases. “Everyone has a phone and is on some social media platform.”

The series is called “Beyond the Yellow Tape” and features one unsolved homicide each month. 

“We’re trying to get a video out per month telling about one case and telling about the victim, hoping that their family and friends will share it with others, and then those people will share it with more so it can reach a large span of people.”

 Hayes said that typically, victims know their killer. 

“We are hoping that someone knows about a connection between the victim and the person we don’t know,” Hayes said. “As time goes on, people tend to talk about things and provide more details.”

He said that in addition to social media, legacy media, such as television, radio, and newspapers, are important for spreading the word. He added that other news organizations expressed an interest but have yet to follow up.

In 2023 there were 14 unsolved homicides, and in 2022 there were 15.

Although these numbers seem high, it is less than the national standard for homicide cases.

According to the FBI and, the national murder clearance average is less than 55 percent each year, followed by about 45 percent for aggravated assault offenses. 

“We’re going to fight crime in this city,” Hayes said. 

Since January of this year, there have been 15 homicides, with only one unsolved. Derrick Jackson was murdered on Jan. 18 at 5506 Glenview Dr., and no warrants have been issued in the case. 

Hayes said in the coming months, they will highlight both old and newer unsolved murders. 

On the department’s website, located at, there is a list of unsolved murders dating back to 1973.

“We want the public to know that we still care, and if we get someone willing to talk with us, we are willing to provide a reward and go after the bad guys,” Hayes said. “In order for this to be successful, it’s going to have to be a constant push with our social media and our local media.”

Hayes said they decided against doing a new case weekly because they wanted more time to be spent focused on one case. 

With new discoveries in DNA research, more evidence reveals its secrets, but Hayes said DNA cannot assist in every case. 

“With shootings, DNA doesn’t always exist, but we are reviewing everything to see if we can get something,” Hayes said, adding that recently, the department was able to get DNA from a piece of wood. 

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