A Cure for the Common Cold Case

Greg Tyner is a man on a mission.

However, Tyner believes sketches of a suspect in two East Coast murders match Todd's description, and he has reason to believe that Todd killed two women before Sherri and two more after her. Priest says if that's true, his department doesn't know anything about it.

Tyner has narrowed down some locations where Todd might be staying but doesn't want to divulge them publicly lest the details jeopardize his hunt. He will, however, say that he's getting closer every day. If local police won't arrest Todd once Tyner figures out where he is, someone will. Throughout his many years of investigative work, Tyner has built up a network of colleagues on whom he can call when the time comes to apprehend Todd. "I don't care if he gets whacked on the head, shoved in a trunk and dropped off at a police station," Tyner says. "He needs to stand trial."

And if the man who killed Sherri is, in fact, Chester Todd, it would be at least his second time committing murder. Todd was convicted in 1967 of shooting a sailor to death in Illinois and was sentenced to more than thirty years in the Joliet Correctional Center, a maximum-security prison. He was paroled after serving fifteen years.

Greg Tyner
John Johnston
Greg Tyner
Greg Tyner
John Johnston
Greg Tyner

For now, Tyner is happy to be back doing what he loves most. "I made a really good living from investigating white-collar crime, but it was the important cases like these that I didn't have time for. I know what it's like to have someone you love taken from you, but I can't fathom how you move on when the person who did it is still out there," he says. "I'm doing it now because if the police won't, who will?"

Howard Morton is trying to raise money so that FOHVAMP can employ Greg Tyner full-time next year. If Tyner can break a case like Sherri's, Morton thinks individuals and foundations will be more inclined to donate.

FOHVAMP is also planning to put up billboards featuring up to a dozen specific cases in the hope of generating more leads. A portion of a $25,000 U.S. Attorney's grant will make it possible to post rewards for information leading to an arrest in those cases. But before any billboards go up, Morton needs to figure out what contact number to provide. Last November, Michael Reichert's family put up a billboard on Colfax, near the scene of his murder, offering $50,000 to anyone who could crack the case. But after six months went by with no tips, they removed it.

Morton thinks he knows what the problem was: The billboard directed people to call Denver Metro Crimestoppers, a nonprofit that accepts anonymous tips but doesn't cover the line 24 hours a day. "You get a recording after regular business hours," Morton says. "No one who wants to remain anonymous is going to leave a message on a machine!"

Denver Police detective Steven Antuña, who acts as a liaison between the Crimestoppers board of directors and police agencies, says he understands Morton's frustration but explains that no one ever calls the tip line between midnight and 6 a.m. Tipsters, he notes, "sleep when the rest of us sleep."

However, Antuña acknowledges that boardmembers are discussing the possibility of expanding the hours beyond the current 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. period when he, a cadet and a sergeant take calls. Although the Denver Police Department and Crimestoppers are separate entities, the department helps staff the line and is trying to supply it with additional officers. Beyond that, Crimestoppers would have to hire an answering service to take calls or enlist the help of volunteers.

Still, the fact that no tips at all came in on the Reichert case surprised Antuña. "I thought it was unusual because of the amount of the reward; $50,000 is a lot of money," he says. "Maybe the only person who knows what happened is the suspect."

While Crimestoppers tries to figure out whether to expand its hours, Morton is trying to find hope for families who have had theirs dashed too many times. He's applying for more grants and would someday like to see every state have its own convicted-murderer registry. "You can see if a convicted sex offender lives next door to you, but not a murderer," he says.

And Tyner has created a brochure for FOHVAMP, which he dedicated to his mother, to help families continue their own investigations. In "How to Manage Your Own Cold Case," Tyner cautions members about hiring psychics, provides a fee structure for private investigators so they know about fair pricing, and offers tips on how to obtain records related to the case.

The Donelsons, however, are just trying to live their lives as best they can.

Sitting in her immaculate Aurora home on a recent Tuesday night with her husband and twin grandsons, Linda flips through old photo albums. There's Sherri in her sister's wedding, wearing a lilac bridesmaid dress. Sherri standing with her hands on her hips, her blond hair framing her pretty face, Farrah Fawcett style. Sherri with her beloved dog, Princess, who bears a striking resemblance to her sons' new mutt, whom they also named Princess. And Linda's favorite: Sherri in a swimming pool holding baby Caleb.

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