Fairfax County police hope new online resource will help crack cold cases

July 4, 1961. Marta Santa Cruz, 24, went missing after leaving her job at Washington Hospital Center. Her body was found three days later in Dogue Creek in Lorton, Virginia. She had been sexually assaulted and strangled, detectives said.

Dec. 11, 2006. David Feliz was found stabbed to death in the laundry room of an apartment complex in Fall Church, Virginia. To this day, police haven’t arrested a suspect.

These two cases, decades apart, have something in common: They’re among dozens of cold case homicides now available in brief online, which Fairfax County police hope will help solve the cases.

“I know for sure, 100%, that there are people out there that have information that could lead to the resolution of some of these cases,” said Christopher Flanagan, a detective for the county police department’s cold case division.

The online resource features cases that span from the last decade to as far back as the 1960s.

Most cases feature images of the victims and some information on the case that Flanagan hopes will spur memories that could lead to a tip they need to reopen a case and move the investigation further.

“The information they have, regardless of how trivial they may believe it is, it may be helpful in leading us to a suspect, or leading us to someone who knows the suspect, or leading us to evidence that may identify a suspect,” Flanagan said.

In several of the cases, investigators don’t know who the victim is. That’s the case with John Doe, a boy between the ages of 3 and 6, whose body was found in Massey Creek near the Colchester Road bridge.

“Identifying this child would then be a huge step in bringing that case to some resolution,” Flanagan said.

Flanagan hopes the online resource could also bring in tips from outside the D.C. region, since sometimes those responsible for the crimes are found in other parts of the country or the world.

Flanagan said some cases that have been solved have come from working with police departments in other parts of the U.S., who encounter cases that may be connected to Fairfax County investigations.

“Murderers don’t have the same boundaries that we do as a jurisdiction perspective,” Flanagan said.

Without the tips, the investigations must depend on advances in forensic technology to bring closure to families.

Experience has shown Flanagan that as time passes, relationships change, people change locations, and it’s then that those with information that can solve a case are more willing to come forward.

Whether it’s those tips or ones generated from the online resource, his hope is — regardless of the outcome — detectives will be able to present the families with more information about the death of their loved ones.

“That there could be resolution for these families and have an answer to why their mother, father or child was taken from them,” Flanagan said.

Anyone with information on a cold case can call Fairfax County police at (703) 246-7511 or email a tip. Also, an anonymous tip can be called into 1-866-411-TIPS.

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