Editorial: Unsolved killings leave lasting pain

It’s been 15 years since the disappearance of Cal Poly student Kristin Smart, and we can only imagine the pain that her parents have lived through since then. Not only have they lost a child, they’ve also been living with the uncertainty of not knowing exactly what happened to her — and with seeing no one brought to justice in the case.

Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve heard renewed calls for Sheriff Ian Parkinson to reopen the investigation.

On Tuesday, the sheriff told The Tribune that his department will re-examine all evidence in the case; the review is expected to begin next month. The hope is that technical improvements in the processing of materials, such as DNA, will turn up something new.

To those who may be unfamiliar with the history of the case, we should make it clear that the investigation was never closed. There has always been at least one detective assigned to it, and the department has always responded to any fresh leads that come in.

“It’s considered an active homicide investigation and always has been,” said sheriff’s spokesman Rob Bryn. “I think there’s a feeling that it’s all been placed in a box somewhere and forgotten, and that is the farthest thing from the truth.”

All that said, with the arrival of a new sheriff we believe it is appropriate to take a fresh look at the case, from top to bottom, and we applaud Parkinson for his decision.

At the same time, we’re frustrated that the sheriff’s plan to undertake a review of all unsolved homicides through the creation of a “cold case unit” — consisting of a detective and a part-time reserve officer — has been on hold due to lack of funding and general uncertainty over the state budget.

As the sheriff points out, he has inherited a number of unsolved homicides committed in the county’s unincorporated communities — 33, to be exact — and, like the Smart case, they are all important.

There are many reasons to press for an equitable resolution of the state budget crisis; seeking justice for homicide victims and their families by providing adequate funds to law enforcement is one of the most worthy.

Other unsolved homicide cases in the county include:

Jerry Greer, 71, of Templeton: On March 28, 2009, someone slipped into the home of Greer, a long-time rancher, and shot him multiple times in the upper body as he slept.

Andrea Lynn Hug, 30, of Garberville: Investigators found Hug’s body on a rocky beach north of Spooner’s Cove at Montaña de Oro State Park on Oct. 12, 1998. Her death was originally ruled an accidental fall, and the case was closed until January 2003, when the Sheriff’s Department determined further work was necessary.

Angel Cosio Sr., 47, and Angel Cosio Jr., 14: The father and son were shot Aug. 22, 1998, near the entrance to a garbanzo bean field about 100 yards from Highway 101 in Nipomo. Detectives believe Angel Cosio Sr. fired a small-caliber handgun during the altercation and may have shot the car, a dark-colored sport coupe, or the suspects.

Dorothy Tate, 40, of Estes Park, Colo.: Tate was shot in the head while in her van, located 2 1⁄2 miles north of Hearst Castle. Her body was found Nov. 15, 1983. Detectives then said their best lead was a camera stolen from Tate’s van. A few years after the homicide, detectives were able to trace the camera to a pawn shop. However, none of the transactions associated with it led to an arrest.

Cheryle Ann Manning, 16, of McMinville, Ore.: The teenage hitchhiker was found shot in the head June 22, 1978, near Cuesta Summit. Investigators weren’t able to identify her for 14 years. In 1992, her name showed up in a national missing persons system. By that time, her father had suffered a stroke and died, and her mother had committed suicide.

Know something?

Anyone with information on the Smart case — or any other unsolved homicide — can call 549-7867, visit www.sloptips.org, or text “slotips” plus a message to 274637.