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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of December 17 - 23, 2003

News

Nelson tracks cold
trails of murders


By DANA DUGAN
Express Staff Writer

Once joining the FBI was the province of Ivy League educated young men, carefully recruited for family connections and bland good looks.

HOLLY NELSON Courtesy photo

Today, the FBI merely demands that an applicant possess a four-year degree from an accredited college or university, and three years of professional work experience or a graduate degree, and two years of professional work experience. One can even apply through the Internet. However, a history of illegal activities or drug use still is not looked upon as desirable.

Holly Nelson, a 1991 graduate from the Wood River High School, graduates Friday, Dec. 19, from Arizona State University in Tempe, cum laude with a Bachelors degree in Justice Studies.

Thatís just the kind of background that can lead to a career with the FBI. Also, for her final college semester she studied at the American University in Washington, D.C., where she interned with the Metropolitan Police Department working with detectives on homicide cold case files.

Nelson and seven other specially selected students with training in forensics and homicide procedures were hired for the program. Their assignment was to review old cases and create summaries of the facts and physical evidence.

"Itís a pretty long process for cold cases," Nelson said, in a telephone interview from Washington. "I worked on one for two months; usually it takes at the most a week. This suspect ended up being connected to other drug crimes. Heíd been a juvenile when he murdered a drug gang member and went to "juvey" (juvenile detention) for it in late 1990. The dead guyís best friend was mad, and murdered four friends of the suspect. Bodies were just found in Maryland and D.C., but the victims were the original witnesses. The original suspect is now in his early 30s. My chief detective, a level two detective, is going to keep in touch with me."

In the 1990s when Washington ranked No. 1 among U.S. cities for homicides, there were not enough detectives to work all of the cases completely, Nelson said. Many cases just were never followed up on, and had been closed.

"We summarized them. Then from the summaries, they were reviewed for solvability factors. We reviewed them to find evidence, to see if there were any viable suspects, and if the people involved were still alive or not."

After this procedure the interns transcribed the information into the Violent Crimes Apprehension Program to see if the suspects may have been linked to other crimes.

Once a case is entered into the ViCAP database, itís compared continually against all other entries on the basis of certain aspects of the crime, she said.

Nelson clearly relished the work. She also loves the Washington area and may find herself back there someday.

After graduation she will go back to work at the Arizona House of Representatives as a page for next session. Then, she plans on going to law school either in California or Washington, where she could do further related work as an intern.

Afterward, Nelson is interested in applying to the FBI. "I want to work in the homicide unit, on the Evidence Response Team, but Iím also interested in being a district or prosecuting attorney."

The FBIís evidence unit specializes in organizing and conducting the identification, collection and preservation of evidence at crime scenes. Their services are used by municipal, county, state law enforcement agencies, as well as foreign countries.

Without missing a beat Nelsonís mother, Janice Blanton, says none of this surprises her.

"The thing about Holly is I really think sheíll do it. And Iíd be happy with any of it. Theyíre such fulfilling jobs."

 

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