Southern Arizona | Investigating 4 You

Crime Trackers: New team of retired detectives aim to heat up some cold cases

TUCSON – Whoever said you can never go home again may be wrong – three retired homicide detectives are back taking care of business.

The former detectives are continuing their public service as volunteers with hopes to close some of the more than 200 cases left unsolved.

Lt. Stephen Carpenter, commander of the violent crimes section, said the detectives have collected well over a combined 80 years of experience.

“What’s encouraging to us is their selfless service continues in their retirement,” said Carpenter.

Bruce Clark retired in 1999. He was the lead detective in the first ever carjacking that ended in murder. In 1993, Patricia Baeurl was shot in the heart by Levi Jackson, who was then 16 years old at the time. He was sentenced to death but is now serving a life sentence.

“We have a lot of knowledge between us,” said Clark.

Mike Ying retired as a sergeant last year. Ying handled the high profile case of Robert Moody, who claims aliens forced him to murder two women in 1993. He was sentenced to death, but a Supreme Court ruling changed it to two life sentences.

Ying said new technology might help clear some of the old cases.

“Hopefully it will help us solve some cases like finding the identity of these John Does,” said Ying.

James Gamber retired in 2010. Gamber worked on the 1996 Gary Triano bombing case. Triano’s former wife, Pamela Phillips was convicted of orchestrating murder. Ronald Young, the man she hired to carry out the hit, was also convicted in the case. Both are now serving life sentences for Triano’s murder.

This is one of his old cases – John Doe no. 32. On May 31, 1999, a jogger in the area of Moore Road and King Air Drive found a partially buried body.

“On top of his body, they had actually poured a layer of concrete over his body and on top of that there was a layer of earth,” said Gamber.

They have the man’s fingerprints, DNA and a necklace he was wearing. They even know how he died – blunt force trauma to the head.

“We’re attempting to identify him so that we can work back through his family and find out why he was in Tucson, who he should’ve been meeting (and) what he was doing there,”  said Gamber.

Gamber said a fresh set of eyes and new technology just might be the break this case needs.

This unit will be exploring new ways of solving the cold cases.

“If it’s within the budget, they’ll support it,” said Gamber after a talk with one of the commanders. “We can go into some of the newer DNA fields like exploring genealogy DNA.”

 “Good, old-fashioned police work and new technology can come up with something we can use and bring closure to the case and to the family,” Ying said.

These retired detectives are heating up to close some cold cases.

“It will be a good feeling for everybody when we get out first case closed,” said Clark.

Lupita Murillo

Lupita Murillo

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