In the field of astronomy, more new discoveries have been made in the last century by amateur, rather than by professional astronomers. This is due partly because professional astronomers have a schedule made out in advance of celestial bodies expected to appear. The amateur, however, would be more likely to set up and point his telescope at whatever catches his attention. The sky is a big place, and if you were looking at any given constellation, you might miss something that becomes visible in another part of the sky. It is surprising how many times an observatory hears from a casual stargazer, calling to report something that hasn't been seen before.
The same occurs in other fields of science, including forensics and criminology.
A case in point is Todd Matthews and the mystery of the Tent Girl. Human remains found in Kentucky during the 1960's have gone unidentified for 30 years, in spite of great efforts. It was a man with no formal training or prior experience (this was his first case) who solved the mystery of this person's identity. He had to come up with a method of his own, and it worked.
Often a murder or missing persons case goes unsolved because police follow a prescribed procedure. Even worse is when they already have a theory they are trying to prove, and disregard visible clues they find, because these aren't the clues they're looking for.
Read any book about a serial killer, and chances are that you will be surprised how many clues have been ignored. The author, writing in retrospect, (hindsight is always 20/20) describes in detail the killer's activities, from his first victim to his final arrest, and he doesn't always do a good job of covering his tracks. Before you finish the book, you may find yourself wondering why they haven't caught him yet.
Among the police in my locality, there are those I sometimes have long conversations with, and those who won't talk to me at all. I was told, by a police officer I do converse with, that perhaps it is because bloggers have such limited credibility with law enforcement. Granted, there is a lot of BS out there in the blogging world, but still this is unfortunate.
The most dramatic case of investigative failure I've read about is the case of Theresa Allore. The Surete du Quebec, being the provincial police of that area, have overlooked so many clues it inspires us to make fun of them. (Perhaps me more than anyone else) There were two other young females who were murdered in the same general area and time that were not connected, except by Theresa's brothers who continued the investigation, (if not started it) and a detective from Vancouver named Kim Rossmo.
Rossmo came up with a formula called "Geographic Profiling," and has also designed a computer program for it.
It was found that if you take a map of that area in Quebec and mark all the places where the bodies were found, along with where they were last seen, and where their possessions were found, you come up with a consistent pattern. The killer's stalking route becomes clearly visible. One begins to wonder why the cases were not connected.
Rossmo's program was initially scoffed at by his fellow officers, but today it is widely used by the RCMP, the FBI, and Scotland Yard.
In the case of Ira Yarmolenko, it was the bloggers, not the police, who first presented the possibility that Ira's murder may be connected with the two missing persons cases that took place in the same county in NC, and very close to the same time. There may or may not be a connection, but the question needs to be asked.
It is likely that Ira Yarmolenko and Debbie Key never knew each other. The Yarmolenko family moved to Greensboro, NC from the Ukraine in 1996, and to Chapel Hill in 1998. Debbie Key went missing in 1997. Still, both lived in the Chapel Hill area and had a lot of friends around here. There are people I've met who knew both of them, though not at the same time. I have talked with some of these people, and have learned some interesting things from them. There are also people I've talked to who are quite young, having been students at CHHS when Ira was there. When I tried to share some of this info with people in my age group, most of them said things like:
"You gotta consider the source."
"These are just kids."
"What do they know?"
To that, let me say this:
If you think young people don't know very much, you must not be spending much time around them.
When Debbie went missing, the Carrboro Police went around talking to nearly every one of her friends. Carrboro is a fairly small town where everyone knows each other. Word got around fast. By the time the news reached my ears, I was surprised by how many people already knew about it.
The Mt. Holly Police have not been talking to anyone except Ira's immediate family, as far as I know, and have been very tight-lipped about the investigation. There are those who believe they have arrested the wrong people. (Would you sit down and go fishing by the river where you just got finished killing someone?) The trial will be on Feb 2nd, last I heard, and I am curious as to how it will end up. I am willing to bet at this point that this case will be solved by the friends and family of the victim, rather than by law enforcement.
As my Scarecrow says in "the Wizard of Blogs,"
"No one knows everything, but everyone knows something that others do not."