News

Actions

7 Action News goes inside the search for missing persons in this cold case investigation

Posted: 11:39 PM, Sep 07, 2016
Updated: 2016-09-08 22:47:09-04

There are more than 4,000 people who’ve been reported missing in the state of Michigan.

7 Investigator Heather Catallo is taking a look at the dedicated detectives who make it their mission in life to give families answers and hope.

“Somebody has to be the voice for them,” said Detective Sgt. Sarah Krebs, who spends her days trying to solve mysteries that sometimes are decades old.  Det. Krebs is with the Michigan State Police Missing Persons Coordination Unit.

“Our unit works continuously to connect the missing persons cases to the unidentified remains cases,” said Krebs. She works directly with families, trying to find their loved ones who have vanished.

“A lot of the families that I’ve worked with are held in absolute suspense when someone in their life goes missing.  Many times, they are not able to move from their home location, where they lived when the person went missing; they won’t change their phone number,” said Krebs.

Det. Krebs collects fingerprint information, dental records and DNA samples from family members.  She can compare the DNA with a national database of genetic information in the hopes that she’ll get a hit and solve a missing persons case.

Krebs also takes the remains from the state’s 300 unidentified bodies and solves cases by re-creating images of what the victims might have looked like.

“It’s very rewarding work to do, because you’re able to give these families back their missing person,” said Det. Krebs. 

She helped solve the high-profile case of the French street artist Bilal Berreni, who was found murdered in Detroit back in 2013.

Right now – Krebs is hoping you can help solve two cold cases.  The first involves a man who was found floating in the Detroit River on June 13, 2015. 

“He was very well dressed.  He had on a button up white and blue striped Ralph Lauren shirt, Diesel brand jeans, Hermes loafer shoes and a Ferragamo belt,” said Krebs.

But Det. Krebs says they later discovered most of those designer items turned out to be counterfeit.

“That tells me that he cared much about his appearance, but maybe he didn’t have the lifestyle or career that would support it,” said Det. Krebs.

Krebs says the man was about 5’7” and 160 pounds, and they think he was anywhere from 30-50 years old.  He’d had some high-end dental work done and did not have any tattoos.

“I’m sure that somebody out there is looking for this individual.  If they have any information on who it is, we would like them to contact us,” said Det. Krebs.

Krebs also believes someone must be looking for a woman who had been stabbed to death.  Her body was found at a trash recycling center on Detroit’s East Side back in 1987. 

Krebs says she was 5’6” and 114 pounds, had recently given birth, and appeared to be someone who took good care of herself.  At the time of her murder, she was wearing two rings on her left hand.

“She had a haircut where it was longer on the underneath, it was kind of tapered down and maybe shoulder length.  And the top was very layered and kind of feathered.  We could tell that the highlights were very recent, probably within the last 2 weeks or so [before she was murdered],” said Det. Krebs.

Unless someone can identify her, there’s no real way to solve this homicide.  That’s why Det. Krebs and her State Police colleagues urge all families who have a missing loved one – no matter how old the case – to give a DNA sample to police.

“This is a breakthrough technology in missing persons cases.  Many of the family members of a long term missing, don’t even know this is available to them,” said Det. Krebs.  “Being able to give that person their name back can also find them justice.”

If you know anything about these cold cases, the Michigan State Police want to hear from you.  Please email information to MSP-unidentifiedremains@michigan.gov.

You can also learn more about missing and unidentified cold cases here: http://www.namus.gov/

If you have a story for Heather Catallo please call 248-827-4473 or email her at hcatallo@wxyz.com .