Last month I was lucky enough to attend the American Association of Cold Cases (AISOCC) Conference in Albany, New York, USA. I found out about the conference when listening to one of the many true crime podcasts I devour every day. The conference is organised by the Founder and President of AISOCC, Detective Kenneth L Mains, a true crime hero of mine.
The conference is an annual get-together for experts in the field of solving crimes. It’s also open to the public for those interested in gaining an insight into how the experts approach their work. As the name suggests, AISOCC is dedicated to bringing cold cases back into the light. There is an AISOCC panel of advisors that helps to analyse cold cases and give their expertise to assist in solving them. I was invited by Detective Ken Mains to join the panel for the closed session on the last day of the conference. We were presented with a cold case by local law enforcement. We were given case evidence, crime scene and autopsy photos, and a timeline. The room of experts got stuck into the details and gave the investigating officers lots of food for thought.
Back to the main conference. The speaker line up was phenomenal. In attendance were legends in law enforcement, forensics, and journalism. Those of you who, like me, are addicted to the huge wave of true crime docu-series now available on Netflix etc, will appreciate the enormous privilege it was to hear Forensic Scientist Dr. Henry Lee speak (The Staircase, O.J. Simpson, Jonbenét Ramsey). His talk gave us a glimpse into the dark world of violent crime. We were treated to crime scene photos, examples of how Dr. Lee has solved cases and how not to make assumptions – crimes scene clues are not always true to how they first appear.
Aphrodite Jones is a True Crime goddess. She is a TV presenter, author, and crime journalist. I was lucky enough to have a good chat with Aphrodite and she’s fascinated by the Super Recogniser skill. We have struck up an email friendship since and when I last heard from her, she was in court in Brooklyn covering the NXIVM (pronounced NEXIUM) case – look it up, it’s horrendous!
I met a guy who I’d been listening to on a podcast that very week. His name is Cloyd Steiger and he’s a retired homicide detective from Seattle, Washington. He now works as Chief Criminal Investigator to the Attorney General in Seattle. During his prestigious career, Cloyd worked on over 250 homicide cases including serial killers and mass murderers. Cloyd processed the infamous scene of Kurt Cobain’s suicide. He has thousands of stories and a very loud guffawing laugh. We immediately hit it off and I ended up helping him search for his hire car – he had forgotten entirely what it looked like. Since the conference, Cloyd has been looking at ways to bring SRI over the pond to help with cases and we’re staying in touch. If you’re into podcasts, search him up. In particular, look up a four-part interview with Cloyd by Dr. Lee Mellor (a VERY dark criminologist) on the excellent ‘Murder Was the Case’ podcast. He’s an author too and I’m currently reading his gripping book ‘Homicide: The View from Inside the Yellow Tape’.
My time at the conference was invaluable. I made lots of new contacts and was able to spread the word about our skill to those who could really use our help. I met a plethora of important contacts including a New York Times journalist, a crime historian working on a serial killer cold case, a retired FBI agent looking to find connections for SRs within the bureau, a Forensic Anthropologist, and Criminal Psychologist, a genealogical DNA expert and a handwriting expert! I was even interviewed over the phone by a New York Times journalist. The owner of 'Private Investigator' and 'Unsolved" magazines has asked me to do an article for them which will help to promote our skills to the crime world. Our American friends seem as excited as we are about our rare ability and it was a true pleasure to shout from the rooftops about how we can help our US counterparts.
While I was in Albany, I was lucky enough to visit a local middle school (years 7, 8 and 9 would be the UK equivalent) as my friend was delivering a law enforcement presentation to 800 of the students. There were armed police officers patrolling the auditorium. At first, the sight of a firearm around the school children seemed shocking. I soon realised however, that I felt at ease and grateful for their presence as my imagination started to kick in. It's interesting how soon you become accustomed to feeling safe. That said, I can’t ever imagine seeing a sign like this outside my child’s school!