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LAKE CHARLES, La. (AP) — A new task force at the Vernon Parish Sheriff’s Office has been formed in hopes of advancing some of the area’s oldest homicide cases.

The Cold Case Investigation team is comprised of five officers already active in the sheriff’s department.

The American Press reports the group answered the call put out by Sheriff Sam Craft in December to volunteer their time to reopen five homicide cases that occurred between 1980 and 1990.

“Each officer has devoted themselves to going through each case individually and looking over every bit of evidence and documentation in the hopes of at last solving these cases,” Craft stated.

Craft said that he believes every case the team is focused on has a true chance of being solved, most importantly because now the team has science on its side.

According to Chief Detective Rhonda Jordan, a member of the task force, one case the team is most excited about involves Pamela Miller of Leesville. Miller’s body was found Nov. 24, 1989 in a remote location just inside the boundaries of Sabine Parish near an area used by the military stationed at Fort Polk for training exercises.

Miller had last been seen May 29, 1989 and is believed to have stopped at a local gas station before disappearing.

To Jordan and many other detectives, Miller’s case is eerily similar to the disappearance and murder of Karen Hill, a Leesville woman who was kidnapped from her convenience store job and then raped and murdered. Miller’s remains were found not far from where Hill’s body was found tied to a tree inside the boundaries of Fort Polk’s training area.

Hill’s murderer was identified nine years later as a former soldier, Samuel Galbraith, who was stationed at Fort Polk from December 1987 to June 1990. He was later sentenced to 70 years in prison.

At the time that Miller’s remains were found, Jordan said that there was little forensics could determine from the limited amount of evidence recovered at the scene. Now, however, she believes that there is evidence that could help to establish Miller’s cause of death and a possibly provide a link to her killer.

“In the 80s, there was very little that could be gained from DNA, but now we see a lot of opportunity from the physical items of evidence that we still have from that case,” Jordan said. “We do still believe Galbraith could be responsible for her death, and this evidence could be the key to connecting him or discrediting him with her death.”

In addition to science advancements, Craft said that the team is also at an advantage because of today’s use of social media. Since first posting of the reopening of the oldest of the cold cases, the disappearance and death of 15 year-old Darlene Howard, Craft said that his team has already been given fresh leads.

“Social media is so widely used that you can reach almost anyone with a single post,” Craft stated. “All it takes is one person to see it and think ‘you know, I did see something odd that night’ to give us the break we’ve been needing.”

Already, Craft said, investigators have conducted interviews with individuals who have come forward and he said he’s hopeful this new information could lead them to serving justice.

“The women in these cases deserve to have justice served, and the individuals who did this to them deserve to pay for what they did to them. We will not forget about these women, and we will not stop searching for their killers,” he said.


Information from: American Press,