Jodi Cooper, a 35-year-old nurse, was hacked to death in her rural Bonner County home Feb. 29, 1992.
The elderly Iver Dahl was executed with one shot to the head in April of 1982. He was found in his Hope, Idaho, home, handcuffed, dressed only in his long underwear and face down in a pool of blood.
Eleven-year-old Lisa Brown’s decayed body was pulled from a shallow grave near Priest River on a fall day 17 years ago. Her skull had been smashed.
None of the cases has ever been solved. But Bonner County authorities say they haven’t given up.
“Some of these cases peck away at you and make you sick. People think we have forgotten about them and let them go, but we haven’t. Not by a long shot,” said Sheriff Chip Roos.
Roos, who has worked nearly two decades in Bonner County, has details of the cases still locked in his head. He was inside Cooper’s blood-spattered home. He guarded the grave where Brown was found, and he saw Dahl’s frail body on the floor.
“They aggravate me to no end,” Roos said.
Since 1978, the county has had 15 homicides. Only five remain unsolved.
“I think we are ahead of the game. We have a pretty good track record,” said Det. John Valdez.
Valdez said there are still suspects in each of the cases, but not enough evidence to put anyone behind bars.
“I think most of these will be solved. We just have to wait for the right person or right information to come in. Patience pays off,” Valdez says.
That doesn’t mean detectives sit and wait for confessions or witnesses to materialize.
Authorities here have gone to extremes to turn up clues, using everything from psychics to satellite photos.
“People have no idea the meticulous things we do and the attention to minute details,” Roos said.
In the Cooper case, Roos said detectives want to review satellite images.
It’s possible photos were taken from space the night of the murder. If so, the Cooper home 20 miles south of Sandpoint could be pinpointed. Maybe it won’t show a thing, but maybe it will show a suspect’s car, Roos said.
“Sure some people will scoff and say its bizarre, but these are some legitimate tools.”
Using a psychic on the Cooper case to help find a machete-type weapon is a serious option.
A psychic was hired to help find Lisa Brown’s body and her killer. Although the seer didn’t help land a conviction, she provided some uncanny information.
Roos said the psychic was just handed a file folder after she stepped off a plane in Spokane. The folder had 22 pictures of suspects in it, including Carl George Hull. Hull was later arrested for the crime, but released due to a lack of evidence.
“We discussed nothing about the case with the psychic and within three minutes she pointed to the guy and was telling us things it took us a long time to find out about this fellow.”
The psychic kept seeing flowers, poppies and roses, Roos said. Detectives later found a bartender who had information about the murder. His name was Popeye Rose.
The psychic also saw the Roman numeral II near Brown’s body. When the girl was finally found there was a double- poled power line with a cross-beam nearby.
“It looked just like the Roman numeral II,” Roos said. “I personally scratch my head in doubt at some of these things, but it’s amazing some of the information we get.”
Authorities are sure they know who killed Iver Dahl. The men left their signature by the way they committed the crime, Roos said. The handcuffs, the one shot to the head and a witness who said the disguised men talked in Spanish accents.
“I’m real comfortable we have the answer there,” Valdez said. But he added there’s not much sense in prosecuting the case. The two suspects are already serving life sentences in the Idaho State Penitentiary for another murder.
“It’s basically a solved case,” Valdez said, declining to name the suspects on a chance the case might go to court.
Detectives are also confident they know who kidnapped and killed Lisa Brown. They say it was their original suspect. Unfortunately the evidence isn’t strong enough to take to court.
“We are completely satisfied as is the prosecutor’s office that we have the right suspect. But if you don’t have the evidence to clearly win in court you would be fool to prosecute,” Roos said. “If you lose, the guy is forever free. Things leak out in time and it’s better to keep all your playing pieces.”
Valdez said the same holds true for the Cooper case. A day after the murder, Cooper’s 17-year-old son, Jeremy, was arrested. He was jailed for seven months before being released due to a lack of evidence.
“Jeremy is still a suspect as are two others,” Valdez said. “I think some people in the area have information but are reluctant to come forward.”
The detective said some may fear retribution if they talk because the crime was so brutal. Cooper was slashed about 30 times, her hands and head almost severed.
Cooper’s common-law husband, Pete Crockett, was also hacked and left for dead. He later testified he didn’t know who attacked him.
“Except for the blood it was one of the cleanest crime scenes I’ve seen. The evidence just wasn’t there,” Valdez said. “The prosecutor said let’s back off and fight another day and I think that was the right thing to do.”
A bloody imprint of the weapon was found on a blouse in the Cooper house. It looked extremely similar to a hand-made machete one of Jeremy Cooper’s friends made and said was stolen before the murder, Valdez said.
“It’s really, really slim the evidence at the Cooper scene would point to anyone outside the family,” Roos added. “Having a weapon would have made all the difference, but we aren’t giving up on a thing. We have people ready to go anywhere anytime.”
MEMO: See also sidebar which appeared with this story under headline “Unsolved murders”