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Washington granted money to solve MMIP cold cases

Washington's Task Force of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and People held its semi-annual summit earlier this month in Spokane.
Courtesy MMIW Task Force
Washington's Task Force of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and People held its semi-annual summit earlier this month in Spokane.

Washington state has new resources to investigate old unsolved murder cases of Indigenous people.

The attorney general’s office says it has received a million-and-a-half dollar grant from a federal program named after Emmett Till. He was the Black teenager killed by a mob of whites in Mississippi in 1955.

Attorney General Bob Ferguson says the grant will allow his office to add staff to a new unit that’s identifying and investigating cold cases. Ferguson says that group is working with federal, state, local and tribal authorities.

"For us to actually get in there and investigate one of these cases, we need support from local enforcement because they actually have the authority to charge crimes. But they can grant that authority or the ability to investigate to my office.

"In order for this to work, we need to overcome those jurisdictional barriers and make sure we’re working together. The good news is we really believe we’ve really developed those relationships on these cases with those local law enforcement agencies and we expect full cooperation with them as we move forward," Ferguson said.

Ferguson says the grant will allow his office to hire staff for a new unit to look into cold cases from before 1980.

He says federal, state, local and tribal authorities are allocating more resources to solve these cases.

“There has been a lot more national media coverage on this crisis and I do believe that that helped galvanize some folks to say, ‘Hey, what can the state do to be helpful with local law enforcement and to work with tribes?’ And so, I think it’s been a combination of things. Obviously, tribal community members have been trying to sound the alarm on this issue for many, many years," he said.

The state of Washington has created a task force devoted to missing and murdered Indigenous people. It met earlier this month in Spokane. Last year, it issued a report with 10 recommendations for moving forward on MMIW cases.

Doug Nadvornick has spent most of his 30+-year radio career at Spokane Public Radio and filled a variety of positions. He is currently the program director and news director. Through the years, he has also been the local Morning Edition and All Things Considered host (not at the same time). He served as the Inland Northwest correspondent for the Northwest News Network, based in Coeur d’Alene. He created the original program grid for KSFC. He has also served for several years as a board member for Public Media Journalists Association. During his years away from SPR, he worked at The Pacific Northwest Inlander, Washington State University in Spokane and KXLY Radio.