New Texas State program allows students to help investigate cold cases

Texas State University is partnering with the Attorney General's Office to create the Texas State Cold Case Team for criminal justice students to help investigate unsolved crimes. 

The internship program, the first of its kind in Texas, will allow students to work with the Cold Case and Missing Persons Unit (CCMPU) at the AG's office.

H. Jaymi Elsass, Ph.D., internship coordinator at the School of Criminal Justice and Criminology, along with Mindy Montford, senior legal counsel for the CCMPU, looked at other programs like this out-of-state that have been successful. 

"I have students who are willing and able and intelligent, and let's put their skills to use. We decided at that point to start building this program, and we're just really excited about it," Elsass said. 

The CCMPU started in 2021 to help law enforcement agencies across the state. A cold case is where all credible investigative leads are exhausted. As of 2020, there were more than 20,000 unsolved homicides in Texas. 

Students will work on two cases while being supervised by investigators. The specific cases haven't been announced yet. 

"They're going to start from scratch, with a completely fresh set of eyes here," Elsass said. "The idea is for these students to really dig in and follow the protocols and work these cases."

It's a competitive process. Only four students will be picked from the more than 100 who applied. They'll start in the fall, with some training over the summer. 


"Success looks different. Success, of course, might be solving a case. That's the ultimate pinnacle of success, but success could also mean something like excluding somebody who's been a suspect for 10 or 15 years and giving that person their life back. Success could also mean digitizing this overwhelming amount of information and a triplicate of evidence that's all in paper form boxes," Elsass said. 

Any of this can be a step closer to making a cold case a closed case, which also means a step closer to justice. 

"It's huge for us, but it also is a great way for us to give back to the victims of crime in this state, and I think that's really important in a field like criminal justice, that is a field of public service to ingrain that in our students, now that we're working for these victims' families," Elsass said.