With 18 unsolved homicides in Fort Collins and Larimer County, and more than 1,200 statewide, a victims' rights group is pushing for increased funding to find the killers.
And they're proposing to do it by replacing the state's death penalty.
"We have killers walking among us, murderers living in our neighborhoods," said Howard Morton, executive director of Families of Homicide Victims and Mission Persons. "It's a shame that a life has been ended violently and the perpetrator never been prosecuted."
A law passed last year established a cold case task force at the Colorado Bureau of Investigations; but with limited funding. Morton said using the $3 million appropriated annually for the state's rarely used death penalty law would speed things up.
"If you're murdered in Colorado, the chances are 3 in 10 that your murderer will never be prosecuted," Morton said. "How would your family deal with that?"
Nationally, the "clearance" rate for homicides has been declining, from 76 percent in 1978 to 62 percent in 2005, the latest year for which federal statistics were available.
Cases can go cold for reasons ranging from uncooperative witnesses to incompetent investigations.
In Larimer County, some of the unsolved murders date back a century, as is the case of Joseph Allen, who was found beaten to death in 1907 in Fort Collins.
There?s 21-year-old Jessica Arredondo, who was run off the road, beaten and left in a ditch in 1988.
And someone out there knows what happened to Gay Lynn Dixon on Jan. 30, 1982, and her family is still hoping that person will step forward.
Dixon was last seen alive leaving a high school keg party; her body was found in Rist Canyon the next morning, her jaw broken and three bullet wounds to the head. She?d been 17 for less than two months.
?The hope that I have is that the people who were around and the information that they have,? said Laurie Wideman, Dixon?s sister, last summer. ?I hope that, as they mature, they?ll be able to come forward.?
Peggy Hettrick, who was found fatally stabbed and mutilated in Fort Collins in 1987 is not on the list, likely because her case was considered ?solved? when Morton?s group compiled this list.
But earlier this year, a judge freed and vacated the life prison sentence of Tim Masters, the man convicted in her death. Morton said it?s possible Hettrick would not be included on the list now because her case remains under active investigation by Colorado Attorney General John Suthers.
Morton said he?s learned over the past five years that hammering on local law enforcement to reopen cases is often unproductive. The new law requires agencies to turn over cold cases to Colorado Bureau of Investigation if survivors request it.
?The objective is to get more resources to effectively address our unsolved murders,? Morton said.
That being said, he added, ?the time to solve a crime is when it happens, not 20 years later. We need to put those people behind bars.?