LOS ANGELES – Richard Jackson, the lead detective in the Kazuyoshi Miura case of the Los Angeles Police Department, is an experienced officer in the cold case section.
“I wanted to give answers to families that wondered what happened to their loved ones . . . to create some kind of order in their lives,” Jackson, 55, said in a recent interview, describing why he became a cold-case detective.
The LAPD’s Cold Case Special Section was established in 2001 to re-examine nearly 9,000 cases from the 1960s to the late 1990s that remain unsolved.
Jackson, an original member of the section, requested the move from homicide because he hoped to bring a sense of peace and closure to families who have suffered for too long.
Jackson said he has seen a lot in his 20-odd years as an officer in the second-largest city in the United States.
He has come across some of the most gruesome and tragic murder cases in the country, including when a Japanese man murdered his wife and daughter in 2000.
Before joining the cold case unit, Jackson helped the Metropolitan Police Department with the Miura case in 1988 as a robbery-homicide detective.
The LAPD is now waiting for the outcome of legal procedures at a Saipan court where Miura is fighting his transfer to California over the November 1981 shooting of his wife in Los Angeles.
The victim, Kazumi Miura, died a year later after being transported in a coma to Japan.
The 60-year-old Japanese businessman was acquitted in Japan over her slaying but was arrested in February in Saipan as a suspect in the shooting and has since been detained in the U.S. commonwealth territory. He has already served a prison term in Japan for an earlier attempt on his wife’s life in L.A.
Since its inception, the 13 detectives and one lieutenant in the Cold Case Special Section have solved more than 60 cases, including that of a serial killer of 15 victims.
Jackson looks forward to cracking more cases and bringing justice to those whose lives were cut tragically short.
Sometimes detectives get calls from pleading family members or retired cops who can’t let a case rest.
“People who work homicide for a long period of time do it because they’re dedicated and they take those cases home at night. It means something to them,” he said.
It is extremely difficult to solve murders that were previously thought to be unsolvable.
Since DNA analysis came onto the scene in the mid-1990s, the technology has improved tremendously.
Thus, forensic evidence plays an integral role in cracking many cold cases; detectives look at murders where suspects might have left DNA or fingerprints.
“When I first started working homicide we didn’t know about DNA, and now you can get (information) off of minute traces,” he explained.
Technology is incredibly important to the success of the cold case unit.
However it still takes a sharp eye, ingenuity and wisdom to prioritize those 9,000 cases and find the ones that have the most potential for being solved.
Cold case detectives look at homicides that might involve old warrants or witnesses with changed allegiances, such as a former boyfriend or an ex-wife.
Reopening old cases often requires the detectives to tread lightly so as not to tip off suspects.
“Sometimes there is a lot of strategy involved. You don’t want to let a suspect know that you are working on the case,” he said. “You do a background investigation on him quietly and you try to exhaust everything you can.”
Jackson is often asked to look at those old cases with a fresh set of eyes and an alternative perspective. He says it is helpful to have the luxury of time and the ability to give his full attention to a case.
Jackson also knows the value of demonstrating integrity and respect in his line of work, even if it involves criminals.
He keeps in touch with some of the very men he has put in jail, which has actually helped him crack other cases.
As a former homicide detective, Jackson feels the work that happens in the cold case unit is important and hopes that someday he might get a call about one of his own investigations.
“When I retire, I’d like to have somebody say they solved one of my cases,” he said. “The more you can solve, the more you can give answers to the families so that people just don’t get away with murder.”