TULSA--- The Tulsa County Sheriff's Office is actively working to crack 28 cold cases dating back to the 1970s.
Many case files sat in a closet collecting dust when leads ran cold, but now, with more resources and a fresh set of eyes, investigators are looking to bring families justice and closure.
"It's real hard," Diana Dean, mother of Dena Dean, who was murdered in 1998 said. "There's days that I sit and cry. I pray every night for justice."
It's been 18 years since the Deans last saw their little girl's face. Dena was 16 when she went missing after work and was found nearly a week later dead on a hill in west Tulsa.
Her murderer walks free to this day, as do many others involved in Tulsa murder cases that have run cold.
On Wednesday, a new investigation into these cases began as the Tulsa County Sheriff's Office started tackling 28 of Tulsa's unsolved murders.
Mike Huff solved some of the highest-profile murders in Tulsa's history in his 31 years as a Tulsa police detective. He's currently head of the International Association of Cold Case Investigators.
"There are some cases here from decades ago," Huff said.
Huff said with today's new technology, these unsolved cases stand a better chance at finding hard evidence, potentially leading to the arrest of a killer.
"I hope they find the answers to ours, but as long as they find the answers to one," Larry Dean, Dena's father said.
The cases will be reassessed by a Cold Case task Force, made up of 10 members, from retired Tulsa police and FBI investigators, to homicide detectives among many others.
"What's more important than human life and resolving these matters for these families," Huff said.
Each member of the team has a different skill set, each crucial to solving these crimes. The task force is also working to contact the families of missing persons reported to the agency in the past.
"Through the work of Cold Case Task Force member, Mike Nance, who represents NamUs [the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System], he has informed me that we have 23 individuals that have not been entered into NamUs through biometrics," Tulsa County Sheriff Vic Regalado said.
He adds the agency will work to obtain these biometrics and enter them into a national database, which is part of the initiative to revisit cold cases.
The goal is simple, to seek justice so that families like Dena Dean's can feel a sense of vindication.
"They need to pay for what they have done, and I am hoping the task force can get what they need and make an arrest," Diana Dean said.
The task force is made up of volunteers who are investigating for free. The team hopes to start finding answers to these cases within the next few months.
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