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Attorney General’s Office unveils new cold case unit

The Missouri Attorney General’s Office unveiled a new unit to solely work on cold case homicides statewide. 

The new unit will work to investigate and charge cold cases across the state by providing a fresh look inside the cases, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt announced this week. The unit has already charged its first murder case. 

“With experienced and respected prosecutors Tom Dittmeier and Dean Hoag at the helm, I’m confident that the Cold Case Unit will successfully investigate and prosecute the cases they take on and will bring long-awaited peace and closure to the loved ones of those victims while bringing justice to the perpetrators of these horrific crimes,” Schmitt said. 

The Cold Case Unit is proving its value after charging its first case. Kenneth Avery was charged with the 1986 second-degree murder of Kristen Edwards, 25, in Franklin County. Edwards was found missing by her husband, Mark, despite the television being left on and her purse still in the couple’s truck. Her nude body was found partially covered only a half-mile from her residence. An autopsy performed by the St. Louis County Medical Examiner’s Office determined ligature strangulation was the cause of Edward’s death. 

Avery is in custody after the Cold Case Unit said it found new evidence against him, leading to the charges. His bail was set at $500,000 cash only.

“We’re going to be ambitious with this,” Schmitt said. “I think this is long overdue. And so we’re going to be working with law enforcement across the state to bring justice to victims.”

The new unit will function as part of the Office’s Criminal Division and will work closely with local prosecutors across Missouri to provide a fresh look at cold case homicides. The unit is led by Tom Dittmeier and Dean Hoag, two formerly retired prosecutors with nearly 90 years of combined experience in prosecuting violent crime in Missouri. Dittmeier and Hoag’s existing relationships with other prosecutors and law enforcement will allow the Cold Case Unit to take on murder cases across the state, some being decades old, like the case of Kristen Edwards, the office said. 

“I’ve made it one of my missions to prosecute the state’s most violent criminals and make Missouri a safe place to live,” Schmitt said. “So far, we’ve been successful in that mission with our Safer Streets Initiative, but there are cases across Missouri that have remained unsolved for years, often decades. Those victims cannot and will not be forgotten, which is why I launched the Cold Case Unit – to obtain justice on behalf of those victims.”