Students experience reality and rewards of cold case police work

  • Tags: Academics
Published 07/10/2018
Students work to solve a cold case

Students work to solve a cold case

The case is over for Michelle Cortez, but future students of Elgin Community College’s Cold Case Investigative Research Institute will continue to research the mysterious 2013 disappearance of 24-year-old model Ryan Singleton, whose unexplained death in California made national headlines.

“If I had the opportunity, I would love to continue,” said Cortez, who graduated in May. “I want to know what happens.”

As Illinois’ only active unit, ECC’s cold case students spent the spring 2018 semester examining every aspect of Singleton’s case. Students, who Instructor Jemel Townsend addressed as “investigators,” formed teams, contacted potential leads, and scrutinized Singleton’s autopsy report.

The investigative effort extended well beyond class hours, as students fielded calls from sources at all times and exchanged information with each other in the evenings. “It felt like a second job,” said student Rick Delapena, who wants to become an air marshal. “Things had a tendency to shift because of new developments.”

By the end of the term, the students made considerable progress which has been compiled into a transfer report that will be used by the next class to continue the investigation.

“Moving on while leaving the case unsolved was difficult, but we were able to contribute valuable information to help the next class,” she said. “That makes all the hard work worth it.”

Students interested in working on the cold case are encouraged to enroll in CRM-235: Issues in Criminal Justice. The course is scheduled to run on Wednesday mornings during the fall 2018 semester. To register, visit