Shawnee Co. cold case investigators hopeful for prison playing cards program

Shawnee Co. cold case investigators hopeful for prison playing cards program
Updated: Apr. 25, 2022 at 9:59 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Law enforcement will tell you no case is ever closed until someone is brought to justice.

That’s why Topeka and Shawnee Co. law enforcement are hopeful the state’s new Kansas Cold Case Deck could generate new leads.

The Kansas Dept. of Corrections debuted the playing cards Monday, developing in partnership with the Kansas Bureau of Investigation and law enforcement agencies statewide. They’ll be distributed in Kansas prisons and local jails, aiming to generate conversation among inmates, who may then come forward with tips.

Among the 46 homicides, 5 missing persons, and 1 unidentified remains cases in the deck are five cases from Topeka and Shawnee County.

“Most of these cases, they reach a certain point and then we often times either run out of leads or run short on leads, and trying to find the people we need to talk to you and then seeing if they will talk to us and give us the information that will help us get one step further,” said Pat McLaughlin, the cold case investigator for the Shawnee Co. District Attorney’s Office.

McLaughlin, along with Sgt. Jason Schumacher who oversees the Topeka Police homicide unit, and the Shawnee Co. Sheriff’s Office, continually follow up on information - old and new - looking for fresh angles.

“We always know that there’s more information out there than what we know,” Schumacher said. “People that either haven’t talked to the police because they don’t want to, or because the right questions may not have been asked at the time.”

They’re hopeful the KBI and Kansas Dept. of Corrections cold case deck could give them the missing pieces they need. Among their cases included in the deck: the 2017 shooting death of Joshua Jernagin; the 2019 killing of John Waller; a quadruple homicide in Topeka’s Central Park neighborhood from 2013; the 1976 death of 18-year-old Tirell Ocobock; and the 1984 case of Butch Lavin.

McLaughlin and Schumacher say it’s about bringing a killer to justice, and finding closure for the families.

“It’s kind of an open book for them until that process is complete where somebody has been prosecutor for it, placed in jail for it. Then they can feel like it’s the end of the chapter into the book and start to gain that composure of closing it in their lives,” Schumacher said.

“Somebody lost a brother, a son, an uncle. They live with this every day,” McLaughlin said. “We work different cases all the time and we have to move from one to the other, but they think about it every day, and so it would just be nice to do this for the families.”

Authorities say the public’s help also is vital. In Shawnee Co., tips may be made anonymously through Crime Stoppers, 785-234-0007.

13 NEWS will be profiling several of these cases in the upcoming weeks on Sunday’s 13 NEWS at 10. We’ll recap what happened, and hear from the victims’ families on why finding a resolution is so important.

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