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Boston’s Cold Squad Solves Old Mysteries

December 24, 1993

BOSTON (AP) _ Radical fugitive Katherine A. Power beat police Lt. Tim Murray to the punch when she turned herself in for participating in a fatal, 1970 bank robbery.

Power’s surrender three months ago came as Murray and partner Steve Murphy, who make up Boston’s ″cold case″ squad, were about to pay her a call.

In just a few years, the partners have caught up with 14 long-missing murder suspects and solved 10 other homicides. The oldest case involved Lewis Wolfe, who shot a man six times in 1967.

Wolfe resurfaced about 1972 as Robert Lewis Wilson. He attended Wentworth Institute of Technology, then began working for the Boston Gas Co. as a draftsman and bought a two-family house in Boston.

Investigators knew the fugitive’s wife, Rebecca, lived in the house’s second-floor apartment with their three children. They suspected that Wilson, who lived on the first floor, might be Wolfe.

On a hunch, detectives went through court records involving people named Wolfe. They found a 1981 case in which Mrs. Wolfe took her ″landlord,″ Robert Wilson, to court for failing to pay child support.

In October 1992, Wolfe was arrested. ″He told us when we arrested him, ‘I was always waiting for the knock on the door.’ It took a quarter of a century, but that knock finally came,″ Murray recalled.

Wolfe, like Katherine Power, pleaded guilty to manslaughter.

In the Power case, the cold case squad, working with the FBI and other agencies, had narrowed the search to 155 women in two Oregon counties. Power’s alias, Alice Metzinger, was among the names.

″If she didn’t surrender, we would have had her within two months,″ Murray said.

Murray was reluctant to give away too much information about how the search was narrowed, fearing it would aid other fugitives. But he said it involved looking at drivers’ license records for permits first issued between 1975 and 1980 to women less than 5-feet-4-inches tall and under 25 years of age at the time of application.

Despite the squad’s successes, its task is a formidable one. Conventional wisdom says the chances of solving a crime diminish rapidly if investigators haven’t made an arrest within 72 hours.

Murray said some cases get picked because he and Murphy, looking through files, conclude witnesses can be found or might cooperate. Others are based on information provided by criminals hoping to cut a deal and some involve retired police officers with a gut feeling about a case.

The cold case squad’s other recent successes include the arrest of Earl J. Clark of Dayton, Ohio. He was arraigned Dec. 1 in the 1969 murder of Carl Carrethers. Murray and Murphy, who tracked Clark to Ohio, said Carrethers was shot to death in a dispute over clothing.

They fed Clark’s description into a national crime computer along with aliases he was likely to use. The names included Stacy Griffin - Clark’s nickname and his mother’s maiden name.

They found Stacy Griffin in Dayton, but couldn’t positively identify him. Murray’s father, veteran police officer Donald Murray, suggested that if Clark served in the armed forces, the Pentagon might have fingerprints. They did and they matched Stacy Griffin’s.

Victims’ families are sometimes amazed to learn that detectives are still on the case.

One tribute came from Joseph Stappen, whose twin brother John was murdered by a neighbor in 1973, when the boys were 16. The investigators tracked Justino Medina to Puerto Rico; he was returned to Massachusetts earlier this year, pleaded guilty and sentenced to prison.

″In a society when it is so very easy to get caught up with today’s problems and even easier to forget about yesterday, you didn’t forget my brother,″ Stappen wrote. ″And I thank you for that.″

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