King County's cold-case unit in its final days

SEATTLE -- The King County Sheriff's Office is bracing for the loss of its Cold Case Unit as budget cuts forced the disbanding of the unit come New Year's Day.

Case files at the sheriff's office chronicle more than 200 unsolved homicides, stretching back decades in King County.

"There's a case from 1942," said King County Sheriff John Urquhart.

The files will start collecting dust.

"There's some of these cases that could absolutely be solved if we had the detectives to work them," Urquhart said.

But the detectives are being transferred and cold case team disbanded because the grant money ran out. Investigators will only work these cases in their down-time.

"Although you have the best intentions to get to it, the day to day stuff piles up and you don't get to it," said Det. Scott Tompkins.

That's a world apart from the dedicated team that solved the murders of Nicole Pietz, Diana Peterson and Sarah Yarborough -- all because they had the time to work old leads.

Now with the cold case team gone, cases like the 1983 murder of Patrick Cress will likely sit idle unless a fresh tip comes in, or detectives find time apart from regular duties.

"Patrick's case hurts," said his father Dick Cress. "We keep it buried you know as much as we can but still the emotions are right there on the surface."

Dick Cress says solving the crime won't bring closure, but his family still wants answers.

"We don't know what happened," Dick Cress said. "We don't know why."

Urquhart points out he's only been in office a month and the grant money for the cold case unit was already gone. County leaders floated some extra cash, but Urquhart can't cut other priorities just to save the cold case team.

"I would like to get this unit back, and I'm going to do everything in my power to do that," he said.

Urquhart plans to file new grant applications and work with county leaders to get back the money he needs to re-launch the cold case team -- hopefully by 2014.