A Cure for the Common Cold Case

Greg Tyner is a man on a mission.

"Joel ran to his bed and hid under the covers," remembers Linda.

Right after the murder, the company Linda had been working for moved its operations to Indiana, and she used her severance money and time off to launch her own pursuit. She bought a computer and e-mailed information about Todd to a fugitive Web site, then sent a letter to America's Most Wanted, which aired a segment about Sherri's murder in August 1996. The show's host, John Walsh, said that the five-foot-ten, 200-pound Todd frequents casinos, plays guitar and might try to pass himself off as a musician in clubs. Linda taped the show and sent copies to weigh stations across the country. The popular television program ran Todd's photo a few more times until July 1999.

"Early on, I was consumed with finding him," Linda says.

End of days: Denver police believe Chester Todd beat 
and strangled Sherri Majors to death and left her body 
in an alley downtown.
End of days: Denver police believe Chester Todd beat and strangled Sherri Majors to death and left her body in an alley downtown.
Chester Todd
Chester Todd

When detectives learned from other bar patrons that Todd lived out of his truck, Everett suggested that one of his relatives make an announcement over their CB radio asking other truckers to be on the lookout for him. But he says the detective told him not to interfere.

Todd was reportedly headed west with a load of meat in his refrigerated trailer, but when he hadn't shown up three days after the delivery was due, the company expecting the shipment offered $500 over the airwaves for whoever found the missing trailer. Two hours later, both the rig and the trailer were spotted abandoned at a truck stop in Sioux City, Iowa. Sherri's blood, hair and an earring were found in the trailer.

Greg Tyner has personal reasons for wanting to see killers behind bars. When Greg was just eighteen, his father shot his mother in the head. His dad evaded police for a while, but he was eventually captured and sent to prison, where he died.

Shortly after that, Tyner and his wife divorced, and he began having to track down his two children, because their mother continually moved around with them. He discovered that his children were being molested by two of his ex-wife's boyfriends, and by the time he could get them out of harm's way, he knew he was going to make a career out of finding bad guys.

He became a private investigator in California, where he worked white-collar-type cases for several years. In 1996, he came back to Colorado, his home state. It was a fortuitous move for his crime-fighting career.

One evening this past spring, Tyner came across www.unresolvedhomicides.org, the Web site for Families of Homicide Victims and Missing Persons (FOHVAMP), a two-year-old Colorado nonprofit. As he scanned the site, which reads like an FBI Most Wanted list, but with victims instead of fugitives, he was simultaneously impressed and appalled. He'd never seen such an organized group of civilians united to solve cold cases, but he was shocked and angered by the number that were unresolved. Eighty victims, ranging in age from just one year to sixty, are currently listed on the Web site, and students at the University of Colorado at Boulder have identified another 400 unsolved homicides from the past three decades (see "Student Aid"). A study conducted by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation found that between the years 1997 and 2001, 245 homicides out of 816 -- or 30 percent -- went unsolved in the state, slightly better than the national average of 36 percent, according to the FBI's Uniform Crime Reports. Last year 16,204 murders were committed in this country.

Once Tyner realized how big the problem was, he knew he had to help. So he called FOHVAMP's executive director, Howard Morton, and offered his services free of charge. Morton was naturally skeptical of the offer, so he called Tyner's references. "They all checked out," he says.

Tyner could understand the hesitation. "Being in the business myself, I hate to admit it, but there are more shysters than not who will prey on the vulnerable," says Tyner, whose practice consists largely of investigating cheating spouses and embezzlers.

The State of Colorado doesn't regulate private investigators, even though the Professional Private Investigators Association of Colorado (PPIAC) has been trying for years to convince the legislature to license the industry. Lawmakers turned down a bill last year that would have introduced standards to the profession after numerous private investigators opposed it. "Anyone can call himself a private investigator in Colorado," notes PPIAC president Rick Johnson, who is unfamiliar with Tyner's work. (Tyner is not a PPIAC member.) "The buyer really has to beware in this state."

But in California, where private investigators must meet strict criteria in order to obtain the requisite license, Tyner says there are "still a bunch of knuckleheads, so a lot of regulation doesn't necessarily help."

Because Tyner's background checked out, Morton decided to make a deal with the private eye: He would initially take a few cases without pay, and the families would cover his expenses, such as long-distance calls and mileage, if they could afford it.

A few families agreed, and Tyner recently began looking into some of the crimes, including the Littleton bowling-alley murders (employees Erin Golla and James Springer Jr. and bowler Robert Zajac were shot to death at the AMF Broadway Lanes in January 2002) and the case of Michael Reichert, who was fatally struck on the head in October 2000 in a Colfax parking lot. But since there is already a suspect in the Sherri Majors case, he's focused most of his efforts over the past few months on finding Chester Todd.

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