Making Cold Cases Hot Again
Two years ago, Sweat died after being stabbed answering the front door of his Southwest Gainesville home in broad daylight. With his dying breaths, Sweat made a final phone call to 9-1-1 in search of help and to give a description of his killer: a black male wearing blue jeans and a long-sleeve blue shirt. That call left G.P.D. Detectives with their biggest clue, and it left his sister, Brenda Sigmon, with a burning question.
"My biggest question is 'why?' They didn't steal anything from the house," Sigmon said. "Nothing was taken."
While Sigmon wonders "why," detectives also wonder "who?" Det. Mike Schentrup is the G.P.D.'s Cold Case Coordinator.
"After one year from the date of the homicide, we categorize them at that point as a cold case, but that doesn't mean we've stopped investigating," Schentrup explained. "If new leads don't come forward, there's not a whole lot of things we can do to generate new leads."
Schentrup monitors cold cases in hopes a new lead may arise or a new technology will become available that sheds new light on old evidence.
"Philip Sweat was a very difficult case," Schentrup said. "In that case we have no eyewitnesses, very limited forensic evidence and it's been a very, very difficult case."
That does not mean all hope is lost however. The G.P.D. is working with the Alachua County Sheriff's Office to develop a second set of playing cards with details of unsolved cases printed on them. By providing these cards to inmates and anyone else who may have information on a case, law enforcement officials hope someone will recognize the victims' or the suspects' descriptions and come forward with new information. The Sweat case will be included in the second cold case deck.
"We do the best we can," Schentrup said. "Like I said, with all the physical evidence, we've used all the latest technology to try to drum up new leads in that respect, but we haven't had much success yet."
For the victims' families, however, the possibility of a new lead and eventually finding closure gives them at least some hope. According to Sigmon, it's the questions about what happened on July 27, 2005 that nag her inner thoughts everyday.
"It's awful. I really thought within the first couple of days, they would find this person who did this, and we would be done with it at this point," she said. "I thought that we would be going to court over it right now."
By Ted Latiak, WCJB TV20 News.
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