HANOVER COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — An online database is shining a new light on dozens of cold cases across Virginia.
The new cold case database was launched in June after the General Assembly passed a bill in 2020. Delegate Danica Roem (D-Prince William) introduced the bill a couple of years ago to launch the database.
“Government transparency, accessibility to public documents, making sure the public can actually see what their government is doing and having the most amount of information available to them, those are all things I spent my entire career in the newsroom working on,” Del. Roem said. “For me, the idea of having a publicly searchable cold case database. This is a win on all accounts.”
The first version of the online tool features more than 30 cases from Virginia State Police. It includes missing persons, homicides and unidentified persons cases.
Corey Johnson’s case has stumped investigators for more than 30 years. According to the database, Johnson borrowed his father’s burgundy Mercury Grand Marquis in 1991 while his own car was being repaired. The next day on May 26, the same car was found abandoned along Crown Hill Road in Hanover County.
Investigators found large amounts of blood and a piece of his skull inside the vehicle. Johnson’s body was nowhere to be found.
Roem said the journey to solve mysteries across the state is just the beginning for investigators. However, the database’s success relies on the public.
“This website, the cold case database will only work and do what it needs to do if the public knows about, the public is engaged with it and the public interacts with it,” she said.
People can leave tips online by selecting a case and then pressing the “submit” button. Roem added that a new set of eyes on these cases could lead to answers that victims’ families have been waiting for.
“I don’t know what is a more genuine human sentiment at this point than having closure,” Roem said. “We’re going to admit that we haven’t gotten justice in every case. That there are people who are still missing. There are bodies who turned up who are unidentified. There are people who were killed and whose killers were never brought to justice.”
Roem said in later versions of the database, it will continue to grow. Hopefully, not with new cold cases, but with more visibility of the ones that are already out there, she said.
“We want to make sure that things in the first five years that don’t get solved aren’t forgotten,” Roem said.