King County sheriff to close cold-case unit as money runs out

SEATTLE - The King County Sheriff's cold-case unit is closing at the end of the year - despite some stunning successes in bringing killers to justice.

Sheriff-elect John Urquhart says with federal dollars running out - the county just doesn't have the money to keep it alive.

Behind the door of the cold-case unit are still files on 228 murder victims and likely murder victims with no resolution - no suspect arrested - no justice for those left behind.

Now the King County Sheriff's cold-case unit that was their best chance for closure - is itself being shut down.

After three years, a half-million-dollar federal grant has run out and there's no more county money to keep it going.

"It's our job to bring justice to the victims and the victims' families - and that's what that unit does," says Urquhart.

In some of those 228 cold cases, the murders still resonate. The unit was able to arrest David Pietz - charged with the murder of his wife Nicki.

But the family of Federal Way High student Sarah Yarborough is still waiting for justice after 20 years.

"There isn't closure. I don't have a sister. My parents don't have a daughter. Those are experiences and memories that are just lost," says Andrew Yarborough.

Family and friends of homicide victims are upset that the lack of money means no more full-time detectives are working on their loved ones' cases.

"They're disappointed, they're upset that this is happening," says Sgt. Jesse Anderson.

But some of the murders date to the 1940s. Family and friends are gone, and justice is up to detectives.

"We are their voice," says Anderson. "We are the ones that bring justice for those victims who no longer have a family or friends around to try to push the issue, to try to bring their case to light again."

Urquhart says it will be his job to go through the budget and prioritize.

"This is clearly very, very, very important - but I can't guarantee that it's going to come back any time soon," says the sheriff-elect.

Over the past four years of tight budgets, the Sheriff's Office has already shut down fraud and domestic violence units.

Urquhart says his priorities will start with responding to 911 calls - and work his way up from there.