Several units make up the Vermont State Police, from the bomb squad and the K-9 team to the Major Crime Unit, which Det. Lt. John-Paul Schmidt said handles the most serious crimes, including homicides and cold cases.

So what is a cold case?

“If you asked 20 different agencies across the state you might get different definitions as to how they categorize what a cold case is,” said Schmidt, who believes it’s time to change the narrative on the term.

“Unresolved case I think is a better term,” he said. “It’s basically telling us the case isn’t resolved and we don’t have a resolution to that case. Resolution can mean different things. Resolution in the strongest sense is you’ve arrested somebody and they get prosecuted and there is a conviction, in that case, it’s a pretty clear resolution. A resolution could also mean that you’ve taken the case as far as you can go with it, which might not lead to prosecution, but you’ve answered questions that you sought to answer.”

The Major Crime Unit is in its 7th year of operation. It started in 2015 with just six members.

“They started this unit in 2015 and in 2017, they started the cold case unit to help with the 56 current cases we have,” said Det. Lt. Todd Baxter.

With those cases spread across all corners of the state, Schmidt and Baxter agreed they needed more resources.

“All of these cases are important,” Schmidt said. “There is no small cases here, these are all major cases. This was somebody’s life that was taken and there are a lot of questions that we try to find some answers to. We have to measure what our success is going to be and that might not always be a prosecution. That might just be answering some of those questions.”

Two cold case specialists, Brad Hanson and Heather Gibbs, joined the Major Crime Unit in May 2018.

So how does a case go from cold to solved? On the next Mystery in the Mountains, we’ll look at how cold case specialists do their jobs and how they keep a pulse on each case.