New website aims to help untangle Virginia’s unsolved mysteries

Dozens of unsolved murder and missing-person investigations are listed in Virginia’s newly launched public database of cold cases. (Getty Images)

BY GRAHAM MOOMAW

(VM) – In 1982, Virginia Department of Corrections administrator Rodolfo Felix Guillen was shot to death one morning right after getting to his office in Suffolk. The shooting occurred just as other employees started to arrive at the building, but there were no signs anyone had broken in.

In 1984, off-duty Virginia State Police trooper Johnny Rush Bowman was killed after being stabbed 45 times in Prince William County, with the unknown assailant leaving behind a hardhat and a wig.

In 2003, then 20-year-old Rachel Nicole Good drove off in her Dodge Neon from a parking lot near a Shenandoah Valley laundromat, never to be seen again.

All three stories are among the dozens of unsolved murder and missing-person investigations listed in Virginia’s newly launched public database of cold cases.

The website, maintained by the State Police, is the result of a bill the General Assembly passed in 2020 at the request of Del. Danica Roem, D-Prince William, a former journalist who says she pushed for it out of a belief in “aggressive” public outreach and transparency.

“The cold case database will only work as intended if the public uses it, if the public shares it, if the public is engaged with it,” Roem said in an interview. “I am imploring people at large from all across the commonwealth and really across the country… to please give this thing a look over. See if there’s a story in your community that you know something about.”

The new site currently lists several dozen State Police cases, but it’s expected to grow once more information is gathered from local law enforcement agencies. 

The legislation creating the database passed unanimously two years ago after Roem told her colleagues the only thing it would do is potentially solve murders.

“These are people,” Roem said of the names and faces listed in the database. “People whose killers were never brought to justice, who had remains without a name attached to them, who went missing and haven’t been found. These are human beings. Let’s treat ’em like that. Let’s bump up some of these stories the public has forgotten about.”

A note on the website says cases are displayed randomly “to ensure all victims are publicized equally.” The legislation defined “cold case” as “an investigation into a homicide, missing person, or unidentified person case that has remained unsolved for at least five years.” The page for each case includes contact details showing how people who might have useful information can contact investigators.

“Because of the public accessibility of this,” Roem said, “you are quite literally empowering the public to help solve these crimes.”

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