HIGH POINT, N.C. — “I don’t like the terminology cold cases,” said Lt. BJ MacFarland, with High Point police. “A case is, specifically homicides, is either solved, or we are trying to solve it.”
That thinking has lead to an initiative within the department to put unsolved homicides back on the public’s radar each month.
The “cold case” classification is given to a case when it has had no new developments after a three-year period. For High Point, there are 53 homicides that date back to 1996 that fit that description.
In December, MacFarland was asked to take over the cold case review process.
He said he was given a spreadsheet with cases and “it’s kind of been a consolidation of getting everything in one spot so we can make better headway of it.”
Each month, the department will take a summary of non-sensitive portions of the unsolved case and will post it on social media and online.
The hope is that digital sleuths will help with the case, or that it will spark old memories for those who may have witnessed something.
“Reviewing these cases and allowing other detectives in the homicide unit to review them, everybody brings a fresh set of eyes to it,” MacFarland said. “People have a natural curiosity, I think if we can play on that natural curiosity … Maybe somebody knows something – or spark that memory – or identify somebody we didn’t know we needed to talk to.”
This is also to act as a way to work around some of the limitations the department has faced over the years.
“Manpower issues, budget constraints, unit sizes, over the last several years our homicides have been elevated, so we’ve had more homicides, so our detectives have been dedicated to working those cases,” MacFarland said.
In the past, the department had also been awarded grants to help in case reviews.
Their most recent attempt at a grant was unsuccessful due to the need not fitting the case.
Grants are given with specific requirements on how the money is spent.
“Some of them could be for hiring detectives … some of them could be for equipment and training, or overtime for an existing person,” MacFarland said.
The first case presented to the public is that of Gennadiy Dzhanyants, 36, who was found dead in his apartment on Aug. 30, 1997.
Neighbors reported hearing gunshots early in the night from the location.
The following day his neighbor went to return some mail of his which had been mixed in with his own.
That’s when Dzhanyants was found shot in his apartment.
“When we found him he was naked, indicating that he was asleep or that someone was there – and there was an exchange of gunfire,” MacFarland said.
MacFarland said they have not been able to identify a suspect, or even identify the weapon used, or determine if it had already been seized by the department in another crime.
“We have no idea where the cold cases are going to take us. In this case, what I’m hoping, is that somebody who lived in the apartment complex remembers this; remembers something that never made it into a police report,” MacFarland said.
To see more of Dzhanyants’ story, click here, or if you have information, contact Crimestoppers at (336) 889-4000.