Note: This article – which looks into crowdsourcing as a tool for cold cases – is the second in a series of articles reviewing and analyzing the details surrounding the murder of Linda Malcom. The first article provides information on the known facts and evidence in her case.
Linda Malcom, a Navy veteran living in a rental home in Port Orchard, Washington, was murdered on or about April 30, 2008. In the master bedroom of her house, her remains were found, burnt beyond recognition.
The medical examiner who performed her autopsy determined that Linda had been stabbed approximately 18 times, causing her death. Based on the low carboxyhemoglobin level in her blood, the medical examiner also determined that she was dead before the fire started. As a result, her manner of death was determined to be a homicide.
Crowdsourcing Is a Valuable Resource in Cold Cases
Crowdsourcing is a rather recent tactic utilized to provide fresh analysis and uncover new leads in unsolved criminal cases. In general, crowdsourcing involves enlisting the assistance of members of the public who possess different skill sets and who can contribute various expertise, perspectives, and analysis.
My investigative partner George Jared and I have had great success in utilizing various people’s skills to help conduct research on persons of interest and map out family trees. The assistance of others has also proven useful in obtaining overhead imagery and relevant maps, as well as developing new leads.
The public has assisted us in every case we have worked on and enabled us to develop a vast network of people who reside within a victim’s geographical area. These networks include people who knew the victim, who had a connection to the victim, or who know people who may be persons of interest or suspects. Having such a network – provided as crowdsourcing – has proved valuable in obtaining significant information that George and I would not have been able to otherwise acquire on our own.
The Use of Social Media
Members of law enforcement often underestimate the value of using social media to obtain new leads in unsolved cases. However, certain social media sites provide a valuable platform for people to discuss aspects of a case and connect with each other. These sites also inevitably raise awareness for a victim’s case as more followers join and participate in the discussions.
As investigators, social media sites allow our team members to connect with people who knew the victim and who may have valuable information to relay. We can bridge the geographical gap when we are working on a case that is far from where we live.
The use of Facebook, for instance, assisted George and me to inadvertently lure the now-convicted killer of Rebekah Gould out of hiding. William Miller had stayed out of the purview of law enforcement for 15 years.
But in 2019, he joined a Facebook group that George and I established to seek justice for Rebekah. Miller then began posting comments and sending me direct messages.
Without social media, Miller likely would have never revealed himself. We learned a valuable lesson as a result of this experience: killers will often closely follow a renewed investigation.
The increased awareness and coverage of a cold case applies pressure to killers. As in Miller’s case, that pressure compels them to change their behavior and engage in conversation that may reveal their involvement in a cold case.
Examples of Successful Crowdsourcing
As we’ve developed a social media platform and increased coverage for Linda Malcom’s case, we’ve had followers provide some very helpful assistance. One of our Facebook group members developed a website, Researching for Answers, which features a great deal of information about Linda’s case.
This website has links to relevant reporting, including written articles and podcast episodes. A website is an endeavor George and I have discussed, but we never had the time or skillset to create.
Encouraging engagement from followers brings forth experts who can provide critical insight on aspects of a case. In a previous case that George and I investigated, Jeff Schafer, a knife expert, provided new analysis on the victim’s wound pattern.
His insight helped us identify the wound that was likely delivered first, which was also the lethal wound. This information explained why the victim was unable to put up a fight against her killer; the lethal injury would have rendered her defenseless and probably unconscious in a very short amount of time.
Alan Haskins, a decades-long firefighter and arson investigator, volunteered his expertise to help our partner team who is investigating the suspicious death of Judy Petty. After studying the case file documents and autopsy, Alan explained that the position that Judy’s body was found in is indicative of someone having dragged her down a flight of stairs before setting a fire. That information from Alan indicates that Judy Petty’s death was the result of a homicide.
How Crowdsourcing Will Assist in Solving Linda’s Case
The more people who become educated on an unsolved homicide case, the better. True crime is one of the most popular genres across all media platforms, and people enjoy engaging with other true crime fans and providing assistance in any way possible.
Our Facebook group dedicated to seeking justice for Linda gains new members on a daily basis. Many of those members live in the Port Orchard area, and several of them knew Linda personally.
Those people have helped to spread the word on our renewed investigation and have assisted us in developing a wide-reaching network of sources. Others have extended offers to assist in a future fundraising event to increase the reward fund in Linda Malcom’s case.
Podcasts outside of our own have already conducted interviews with George and I about our investigation into Linda’s murder. These episodes have led to several people contacting us, offering their help. One particular individual is skilled at investigative genetic genealogy and offered to provide help if the Port Orchard Police Department needs assistance in identifying an unknown DNA sample from the crime scene.
Jeff Schafer and Alan Haskins are currently analyzing the autopsy and fire investigation documents from Linda Malcom’s case. They will both provide detailed reports on the weapon and arson aspects and will appear on future podcast episodes to explain their findings.
Their analysis will provide followers with new revelations about the crime scene. Perhaps their information may jog someone’s memory about a detail of Linda’s life previously thought to be irrelevant.
In addition to possible crowdsourcing, our investigative methods always include setting up a tip email to which people can confidentially provide tips if they wish to remain anonymous or do not feel comfortable talking directly to law enforcement officials. We expect to receive new information in the coming months via that account, and all tips will be shared with the detective assigned to the case, minus the reporting party’s identifying information.
You Are Urged to Get Involved
Readers who want to follow the future progress of Linda’s case can listen to Season 3 of Break The Case, an investigative podcast covering the current investigation of Linda’s murder. Readers also have the option of joining the Facebook group dedicated to resolving this case and getting justice for Linda. Updates and discussion topics will be regularly posted by group administrators.
Anyone with information about the death of Linda Malcom can email our confidential tip line firstname.lastname@example.org or call Detective Walton of the Port Orchard Police Department at 360-876-1700. All tipsters are guaranteed confidentiality and anonymity if they wish. There is currently a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Linda’s killer.