POCATELLO, Idaho -- A sheriff in southeastern Idaho is hoping a group of cold-case investigators will help him solve two decades-old murders.
Oneida County Sheriff Jeff Semrad says he thinks he knows who killed 15-year-old Patricia Campbell and 12-year-old Tina Anderson and left their bodies in Oneida County after the two disappeared from a crowded Pioneer Day picnic in 1978.
But Semrad is still trying to gather the conclusive evidence he needs to take the case to court -- and he's counting on help from the Vidocq Society, a group of forensic professionals who devote their time to solving cold cases.
Semrad and other local investigators will meet with members of the group in Salt Lake City in September. He'll give a presentation on the case in the hopes that the group will agree to investigate the case further, and that their fresh eyes will spot some evidence he's missed.
"We're hoping they will see some things that will help and would be the icing on the cake for us," Semrad told the Idaho State Journal (http://bit.ly/cUD06V ).
Hunters found the girls' bodies in an Oneida County gorge in 1981 along with several .22-caliber bullet casings. The casings were later sent to a police station in Provo, Utah to see if they were connected to a crime there, Semrad said. They weren't connected to the Provo case, he said, and at some point the casings were lost, never returned to Oneida County.
In 1983, another skull was found just a mile from where the two girls' remains were located, he said. Though investigators were able to determined that the skull belonged to a Caucasian or possibly multi-racial female in her late teens or early 20s, they were never able to match an identity to the remains. Semrad said he has a hunch the cases are related, but at this point nothing solid to connect them.
In 2006, police formed a multiagency task force to examine the case and try to find new evidence, which included a 2007 excavation of where the bodies were found.
The sheriff believes the killer was someone known to the girls, that they willingly left the picnic with that person, and that they were shot to death. Investigators have a large amount of the victims' hair, and Semrad is searching for a forensic laboratory that can sort through the fibers to see if any of them belong to potential suspects. That evidence could be used to show contact with the victims, he said.
"It would mean everything to us to bring closure to the families -- they're still looking for closure and still looking to hold someone accountable," Semrad said. "It would be a great accomplishment for the entire region -- (solving the) crimes and holding those responsible and accountable before the court."
Semrad is asking anyone who may have information about the case to call the sheriff's office at 766-2251, or text an anonymous message to 208-815-0120.