AUGUSTA — Sen. Linda Valentino, D-Saco, and Rep. Karl Ward, R-Dedham, hosted the families of unsolved homicide victims at the State House on Tuesday, and announced further legislation aimed at helping those families find closure and justice.
During a lunch meeting, the families expressed their hopes and desires for further action regarding how the state handles unsolved homicides. The families highlighted the need for transparency and communication with law enforcement, and additional resources to tell their stories and seek civil damages associated with the unsolved homicides.
“We met with families today to listen and to learn. What we heard was clear: We made progress last year with the ‘cold case squad’ bill, and we’re in a better position now than we were last year,” Sen. Valentino said. “The Attorney General’s Office has worked hard to create and staff this new unit, but the families of victims still have unmet needs.”
Last year, Sen. Valentino sponsored LD 1221, which funded the creation of the Cold Case Squad, which is now named the Unsolved Homicide Unit. Rep. Ward was a co-sponsor of the bill, which was eventually wrapped into the bipartisan budget. Since the bill’s passage, the AG’s office has hired two detectives, and is working to fill a victim’s advocate position and to establish new policies to govern the unit’s operation.
“It was an honor to sit down with these families who have shown unimaginable strength and grace in the face of tragedy,” said Rep. Ward. “As legislators, we need to do everything in our power to make sure that all state agencies are doing all that they can to help these families find closure.”
During a news conference, Sen. Valentino announced she would submit legislation to address two concerns raised by the families.
The first would allow for the release of certain information that would not be damaging to an ongoing criminal investigation. Families are desperate to spread the stories of their loved ones’ deaths far and wide in an effort to draw out witnesses or additional information. Many of the families would like to enlist private investigators or media outlets to advance their cases, but don’t have access to information in sealed cold files.
The second bill would examine the current two-year statute of limitations for civil lawsuits to be filed related to an unsolved homicide. Families need more time to build a case, and feel the current law hinders their ability to seek justice in civil court.
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