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GVSU joins WMU in partnering with MSP to solve cold cases

Michigan State Police have 200 cold cases across the state, and more than 25 in GVSU's district
Western Michigan cold case program
Posted at 2:59 PM, Apr 12, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-12 18:06:52-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Bringing justice and finding closure is the focus of the latest program at Grand Valley State University. They're now the second school in the region to partner with Michigan State Police to help them solve cold cases.

Carrie Buist, an associate professor of criminal justice at GVSU, said, “I’ve had several students who’ve graduated who’ve contacted me and said, you know, ‘Dr. Buist, seriously? You couldn’t start this when I was in the program?’”

When Michigan State police approached Buist about the partnership, she jumped at the opportunity.

“So they put it in front of us and we grabbed it up as quickly as we could," she told FOX 17 Tuesday.

Buist has been with the school since 2016, and an associate professor for the last two years. She said she always wanted to have a cold case class, and next fall, they'll have it.

“I’ve always called it my passion project," Buist said. "I’m kind of a true crime junkie, like many of our students are as well. Just a passion for victims’ rights and wanting to bring closure perhaps to some folks.”

Buist said MSP has 200 cold cases across the state, and more than 25 in MSP's 6th District, which is where GVSU will focus.

That means dozens of families don't have answers or justice. This new program will try to change that.

“Bringing some type of closure to these families that have experienced the death or rape or violent assault of someone that they love," said Buist. "Bringing justice to that family, to that victim, I think is just the absolute ultimate.”

Here's how it'll work — MSP gives GVSU a cold case. It could be five years old, or it could be 40 years old. Students will organize the data, make notes and observations and scan everything into a digital format to send back to MSP.

Using their fresh set of eyes, the students will also be able to help with the investigation.

“The students will have the opportunity say, ‘So, we noticed that this particular license plate was written down, but it’s missing a number or a letter,'" said Buist. "That could be something the officers haven’t thought of before.”

A similar program at Western Michigan University has already proven to be successful,. Students there just cracked a cold case that went unsolved for 35 years, solving the murder of 30-year-old Roxanne Wood, who was killed inside her Berrien County home in 1987.

GVSU hopes to do the same, for those victims, and for their students.

“Being able to give them an opportunity like this I think is really kind of once in a lifetime," said Buist.

The program starts in the fall, and they just started taking applications. Qualifying students must be a junior or senior, with a major or minor in criminal justice or legal studies. They need to have at least a 3.2 GPA and commit to the class for a year.

Only eight students will be accepted, but Buist hopes to be able to grow that number in the future.

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