by: Mark Becker Updated:
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - One of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department's most successful investigative units is without money for now.
The nearly $500,000 federal grant that has paid for the cold case rape team has run out.
It matters to victims like Erin, who had to wait 16 years to confront the man who had raped her.
It was the cold case unit that used DNA evidence to finally track down Gilbert McNair and tie him to Erin's rape and five others between 1990 and 1998 in the Myers Park and Elizabeth neighborhoods.
Two years ago, McNair pleaded guilty and was sent to prison. Now, the unit that made it happen finds itself in financial limbo.
“Right now the grant from the federal government has expired,” said Detective Troy Armstrong.
Armstrong is the lead detective on the unit that has gone through evidence that's been on the shelves at the police department for years.
Reviewing 2,200 cases and finding enough to close out about 150 of them, every one of them critical to the victims who've been waiting for answers.
“I think it's huge. It gives them some sense of justice, but also some closure,” said Cori Goldstein with Safe Alliance.
Goldstein supervises Safe Alliance's Trauma Resource Center, which counsels victims who have survived rape but still don't have resolution.
She said the cold case unit is a critical part of that.
“I think it's a pivotal role,” Goldstein said. “It's amazing the work they've done -- prosecuting cases that are 20-30 years old.”
The police department is picking up the bill for the cold case unit by paying for the part-time detectives, prosecutor and a full time DNA analyst.
That can't go on forever, and the unit is hoping to find a permanent source of funding soon.
“We're hoping that our track record will have the attention of the people in control of the grants so they'll award us another grant,” Armstrong said.
The cold case grant paid for a full-time DNA analyst, one full-time detective, several part-time detectives and a part-time prosecutor.
They are all still working as long as the police department is picking up the tab, but would need another grant to keep going.
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