Cold case website gives victims' families hope

Some unsolved murder cases date back half-century

VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. – March 11, 2017, was one of the most horrific days of Nancy Howell's life.

"Brian and I, that day, were outside at my pool. He was helping me fix the skimmer, and a car pulled up and two guys got out of it," Howell said. "They stood there for a minute and Brian said, 'Dude, this is my mother, can you give me a minute? I'll be right with you.' They then walked away from us and over to the side of my house."

Howell said minutes later, two different men came back to her Deltona home and her son, Brian Walsh, was dead.

"Gunfire rang out," Howell said. "You could see through my window. We watched. He ran across. My feeling is my son was trying to get them away from the house because his children were in there. The shots were like, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, and my son went down and the kid stood over him shooting into him, and he ran."

The two young men were never arrested.

"It's a nightmare. We live it with it every day," Howell said. "Somebody knows, but I think the problem is the community doesn't like to get involved because they're afraid of these kids."

Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood said the detectives who worked on Walsh's case and the 47 other unsolved homicide cases in the past several decades asked for a website that would keep the cold cases in the public spotlight.

"There's a lot of people who don't have closure and that's what victims want. They want closure," Chitwood said. "They want to know that at least you haven't forgotten your loved one, and you're doing your job."

So Chitwood worked with the information technology company Geographic Technologies Group, which donated its time and services, to create a website pinpointing all of the unsolved homicide cases that have gone cold in Volusia County dating back to 1967.

"As science and technology emerges, you're seeing more and more of these cold cases, you're getting results on solving them for a family," Chitwood said. "In today's world, everyone's online. You play with that map, say you were in the area of J.D. Place and U.S. 1 and remember seeing a bunch of police activity, and you click on it and say, 'I remember, I saw that guy.'"

Chitwood said most cases are cracked by tips from the public.

The website is helping generate new leads on old cases that were at a standstill, Chitwood said.

"If that information is sitting in a box in a closet, it does nobody any good," Chitwood said. "So why not put the file online?"

Walsh's case is No. 45 on the site. He leaves behind four young daughters.

"I honestly believe that my son isn't the only person they murdered. I really believe that deep in my heart," Howell said. "They're cold-blooded murderers, and they don't care."

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