Middlesex district attorney creates ‘Cold Case Unit’ to solve oldest, challenging cases

"I’m determined to do everything I can for every family who has waited years for answers,” District Attorney Marian Ryan said.

Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan’s office has launched a new initiative aimed at finding answers to the county’s most challenging and oldest unsolved cases, officials announced Monday.

Attorney Dave Solet, a former county prosecutor, will helm the “Cold Case Unit,” which will delve into homicides, missing person cases, and suspicious deaths where authorities believe foul play was involved.

“I know the enormous hole the loss of a loved one leaves in the life of a family, and I’m determined to do everything I can for every family who has waited years for answers,” Ryan said in a statement.  “This is a new and aggressive approach to examining our unsolved cases.”

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Prosecutors say the effort will involve further review of evidence and using modern technology to glean new information and leads in potentially decades-old cases.

The announcement comes four months after Ryan’s office brought a close to a 50-year-old homicide case involving 23-year-old Harvard graduate student Jane Britton, who was found dead in her Cambridge apartment in 1969.

Officials said in November they determined Britton’s killer was the late Michael Sumpter, a convicted rapist, after conducting DNA testing.

“In bringing this case to conclusion investigators were able to provide answers to Jane’s brother and many of her friends who were alive and still haunted by her tragic death,” Ryan’s office said in a statement.

Prosecutors said they intend to make available a file of each case once the new unit determines that it cannot take any other steps in an investigation.

Solet, who holds a degree from Harvard Law School, previously served in the Middlesex District Attorney’s office where he prosecuted homicide, child exploitation, public corruption, organized crime, and narcotics trafficking cases, officials said. He recently served as chief legal counsel at the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security.

“The Chief of our new unit will be working over the next few months to build a team of specially trained and experienced homicide detectives from the State Police and from each city and town in Middlesex County to review every unsolved homicide case over the last 50 years,” Ryan said.

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Members of the public who may have information about unsolved homicides are asked to contact Massachusetts State Police assigned to Ryan’s office at 781-867-6600.