"These families, they need help," says Tom Chickos, the nonprofit's president and private investigator who volunteers his sleuthing services free of charge to Families Pursuing Justice. The group was founded in 2009 by people affected by cold cases. Its members work with law enforcement to give families emotional support while they wait for justice for their loved ones and, most recently, raise money and awareness to help continue cold case investigations.
Chickos, who has been doing private investigations work for the last 15 years, says these cases do not remain unsolved for lack of effort.
"It's not that the Asheville Police Department or whatever agency that investigated the case wasn't able to do it and be successful, it's just that every investigator in Asheville has a stack of cases a mile-long on their desks and they can't spend forever on one case." (To learn more about cold cases and the two Asheville Police Department detectives who investigate them, read Truth Trackers: APD's cold-case sleuths defy the odds by Xpress reporter Caitlin Byrd.)
This is the first time that the group has offered a monetary reward for information related to three different cold cases: Zebb Quinn, April Pickens and Craig Valentine (more information about these cases can be found below). Chickos says one of the driving reasons why these rewards are being offered is because some missing persons cases do not qualify for government or Crime Stoppers rewards.
For now, the reward money being offerred by Families Pursuing Justice varies from $500-$2,500, but Chickos says he hopes it will be enough money to get mouths talking.
"You never know. It's almost Christmastime and it's good time of year to put the reward money out," he says, explaining, "Some of the people who might have some of the information we need might need the money. You just never know."
Reward offerred: $2,500
About the case: Zebb Quinn went missing after leaving work at the Hendersonville Road Wal-Mart at 9 p.m. on Jan. 2, 2000. Two weeks later, authorities found his light-blue Mazda Protege in the parking lot of the Little Pigs Barbecue restaurant; a pair of lips with two exclamation marks was drawn on the rear window in lipstick, and inside the vehicle was a live black Labrador puppy. Though the case garnered national attention when his story was aired on the Investigation Discovery Channel show “Disappeared,” the case remains unsolved.
Reward offerred: $500
About the case: Last seen at Pisgah View Apartments, April Pickens went missing Dec. 27, 2011. However, little is known about what has happened to her. Pickens is described as black, 5'4" and 155 pounds. She has black hair, brown eyes and a medium complexion. She also has several tattoos including Chinese letters on her chest, "Eric" on her upper back and one that features the Gemini sign on her leg.
Reward offerred: $1,000
About the case: Craig Valentine was shot in his car on Michigan Avenue in West Asheville on April 29, 2007 shortly after 9 p.m. However, police do not know who shot him and why.
If you have any information related to these cases please call CrimeStoppers at 255-5050, or Tom Pickens with Families Pursuing Justice at 712-6990
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