Columbia College Students Work to Solve Murder Cases Gone Cold

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Columbia College forensic science students learn to function as a major case squad, as they prepare to solve the crimes of tomorrow.

We’ve had officers say that these students can do more in 16 weeks than detectives can do in two years.

Columbia College recently announced that the college’s Cold Case Homicide class will have an opportunity to help solve the 1992 shooting death of an Eldon, Mo., man. Led by Mike Himmel, adjunct professor of forensic science and retired Columbia, Mo., police detective, students will work closely with law enforcement agencies, functioning as a major case squad. During the spring semester, students will look for details that might have slipped through the cracks, as well as applying new technologies to the case.

“When students come here, they use the same equipment and techniques used by law enforcement agencies,” said Himmel. “We’ve had officers say that these students can do more in 16 weeks than detectives can do in two years.”

In 2009, Himmel’s Cold Case Homicide class was asked by local law enforcement to look at the 1989 murder of Carolyn Williams, a Columbia resident. The class ultimately provided authorities with two persons of interest, and Himmel said the DNA work-up is still pending. Himmel’s class also helped discover the remains of Mary Nobles, who had been missing for more than 20 years. The discovery helped authorities catch her killer, John David Brown.    

Columbia College’s forensic science students also received an upgraded facility this year, with the opening of the Brouder Science Center. The 53,000-square foot, state-of-the-art building allows students to hone their forensic skills in the crime simulation lab, such as re-creating blood spatter patterns and determining bullet trajectory.

Founded in 1851 in Columbia, Mo., Columbia College has been helping students advance their lives through higher education for more than 160 years. As a private, nonprofit, liberal arts and sciences institution, the college takes pride in its small classes, experienced faculty and quality educational programs. With more than 30 campuses across the country, 18 of which are on military installations, students may enroll in day, evening or online classes. The college is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and is a member of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. Columbia College educates more than 31,000 students each year and has more than 80,000 alumni worldwide. For more information, visit

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Brandi Herrman

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