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How A Glendale Police Detective Cracks Cold Cases

Susan Schmidt
(Photo courtesy of Glendale Police Department)
Susan Schmidt was a college student and tutor at a youth center. A jogger found her shot multiple times on March 22, 1978.

The 54-year-old man Glendale police have accused of committing the city’s oldest cold-case homicide will return to Arizona and face charges in the 1978 shooting death of a 21-year-old college student.

Glendale police Detective Roger Geisler caught a huge break when a review of physical evidence placed Edward Meinhold near 55th and Northern avenues, where Susan Schmidt was found slumped over inside her car more than 37 years ago. Geisler arrested Meinhold on Aug. 21 in Bristol, Va.

A murder investigation is deemed cold after about a year or when police run out of leads.

Geisler could not comment on the Schmidt case because the investigation is ongoing, but he did explain how he approaches cold cases.

He generally investigates these cases by reviewing old files, speaking with the original investigators, checking what forensic evidence was gathered and re-interviewing witnesses.

“Relationships of witnesses and relationships of people involved change over time,” Geisler said. “And where in a new case; somebody may be reluctant to say something; but over time either they don’t feel threatened or don’t feel that pressure; will come forward with that new information which helps us to solve cases.”

While recent advancements have amplified the power of DNA and fingerprint analysis that can lead investigators to a name, Geisler said Internet sites such as Facebook and Twitter have emerged as ways to further develop a case.

“But even though we have a name, you have to develop that name to determine if that person is actually a suspect,” Geisler said. “So by social media, reaching out and discovering friends and family and people that may have known that person really helps us in our investigations.”

Police can access almost anything posted on social media, as long as they know where to look, said Geisler, who has solved about a half-dozen cold cases.

While television dramas can glorify adversarial interrogation techniques, Geisler said he takes a non-accusatory approach to interviews with cold-case suspects.

Matthew Casey has won Edward R. Murrow awards for hard news and sports reporting since he joined KJZZ as a senior field correspondent in 2015.