Above it is the reconstructed model head and bust of a young woman whose skeletal remains were found on Nichols Drive in Mableton on May 10, 1984. In the homicide wing, a glossy flier includes a photo of a woman and her two daughters who were brutally murdered at their home in Powder Springs on Aug. 1, 2007. A 3-year-old’s birthday party in July 2009 in Mableton ended in chaos with a 25-year-old man shot and killed.
The killers in all these cases have not been found.
Cobb Police Department currently has 78 cold cases, 56 of which have been since 1990.
“My definition of a cold case is one that has expired all of its initial leads and has reached a point that there are no active leads to run with and investigate,” said Detective John Dawes of Cobb County Police’s homicide unit.
Sgt. L.J. Szeniawski added he usually puts a timeframe of about a year or two on a murder case. After that time is up, generally homicide detectives have exhausted all of the leads and are no longer actively working the case.
When a case goes cold, Szeniawski explained, it just means that somebody else other than the original lead detective is working the case.
“In theory, John and I are working all 78 of these cases,” Szeniawski said. “Just in the past year, year-and-a-half, we’ve been going through all of them looking for evidence that’s suitable for scientific testing, because DNA now is so advanced, looking for old clues. John’s already been out talking to people we know.”
For police, stranger-on-stranger crimes are usually the most difficult to investigate and are more prone to becoming cold cases, Szeniawski and Dawes said.
“Even in a fresh killing, if it’s stranger-on-stranger, it’s much harder to solve,” Szeniawski said. “Because normally the person who kills you is somebody you know. So we start from the victim and work out, and then usually come across whoever did it and whatever the reason was.”
That’s how police investigated the murders of Jane Kuria and her two daughters, Isabela, who was 19 at the time, and Annabelle, who was 16.
Originally from Kenya, Kuria, a practical nurse at WellStar Paulding Hospital, fled to the United States in 2001 with her three children following the death of her husband.
Her body and the bodies of her two daughters were found dead the morning of Aug. 1, 2007, in their home at 4789 Country Cove Way off Shipp Road. Jane Kuria’s son Jeremy Kuria, who was 7 at the time, and a nephew Peter Thande, then-10, were also found unconscious in the house that morning. Both boys survived the attack. Jeremy Kuria has since moved back to Kenya with his grandmother, police said.
“It was a violent assault on mom, who, to me, was the obvious target and primary target inside the residence,” Dawes said. “And then it appeared that as the children woke up, or just by their mere presence, that they were assaulted as well. The two daughters, 19 and 16, were dead as a result of blunt trauma to the head.”
Dawes said police maintain contact with both Jeremy Kuria and Peter Thande, but still need to do more DNA testing in the case, which requires more money.
“We’ve gone through quite a bit of testing but there’s still some things that we can do DNA-wise, but we need the most advanced equipment that there is,” Dawes said. “We need the most recent scientific availability for that case, but that’s all very expensive. We’re still lining up what all we want to do and where we want to do it.”
In the 1984 case of the unidentified woman whose story is on display at police headquarters, the detectives say they aren’t really looking for her killer any longer, but they would still like to know who she was.
At the time, police believed she may have been a prostitute, and that her body was dumped on the side of the road. When she was found, police estimated she had been dead for several weeks. The medical examiner ruled her death a homicide, but the cause was unknown.
Draped over her remains, police found a man’s light beige-colored work shirt from a company called Doug Hyde Unlimited with the name “George” written on the front pocket.
Police said they found George who worked for that company at the time, but it led to nothing.
The medical examiner found that the woman had reconstructive facial surgery on her left eye. Police guessed that she may have been punched in that eye during an earlier incident.
More recently, police have sent her remains to an organization in Texas for DNA testing. The organization will eventually try to match her DNA to the DNA of family members in the nationwide missing persons database.
“She’s been unidentified since 1984, and obviously without even knowing who she was, solving the murder was near impossible,” Szeniawski said. “…We don’t expect to ever find who killed her, but we’d at least like to find out who she was and tell her parents that she’s dead and what happened to her.”
Detectives call the case of the 25-year-old Mableton man who was shot and killed in 2009 a “very solvable case,” and even have a lead, but still can’t positively identify the suspect.
Det. Chris Twigs, who is still investigating the case, said the birthday party on the night of July 12, 2009, lasted well into the night, when a fight broke out about 2 a.m. between two Latino groups attending the party. It ended with the murder of Julio Gamez Diaz, who partygoers say was trying to break up the fight.
Witnesses believe his killer was a man by the name of Carlito Alfro, who also goes by the name of “Lito,” police said. But detectives believe Alfro has several aliases and might have fled to either Florida or Texas.
“It’s a very solvable case, it’s just people are afraid to talk in that community,” Twigs said. “He goes by several different names and everybody’s seen him, but no one knows where he is.”
Although many other cold cases remain unsolved, detectives say the Kuria case and similar investigations are particularly infamous because they involve children.
“We’ve got a lot of cases that are infamous to us because of the victims,” Dawes said. “We work just as hard on any case, no matter what the background of the victim is. But when you have kids who are victims, like the Kuria case … those cases tend to be more infamous to us, just because it’s people who are out there trying to make an honest living, people that are raising kids and it’s the kids that aren’t going to get to enjoy life.”
Anyone with information about these cases should call the homicide office at (770) 499-3945.