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BIA opens cold case office in Albuquerque

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

The Bureau of Indian Affairs has opened an office in Albuquerque to look into cold cases involving missing and murdered Native Americans.

Tara Sweeney

Department of Interior Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Tara Sweeney told the Journal the office is in the BIA’s Office of Justice Services on Indian School Road.

She said the office’s opening is the result of the work of Operation Lady Justice, a federal task force created by President Donald Trump last November to look into issues involving missing and murdered indigenous women.

“We want to see victims and their families receive closure, and will direct our efforts towards that goal,” Sweeney said.

She said BIA-OJS special agent Daniel Hollin will head up the office.

Hollin will work with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies on cold cases they have involving Native Americans, Sweeney said.

She said Hollin will be working with Denise Billy, who was recently appointed the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Person Coordinator for the District of New Mexico, as well as other stakeholders involved with the cases.

“The duties of the cold case office will focus around the gathering of intelligence on active missing and murdered cases, reviewing and prioritizing the changes of assignments to investigative teams,” Sweeney said.

She said Hollin would develop “a plan to guide the investigators and identify any outside resources that would benefit the investigation.”

Investigative teams would be made up of officers from the various agencies.

“If the case is in Indian Country, OJS will work with the FBI and the U.S. attorney and other federal and tribal law enforcement agencies that could have a stake in that cold case,” she said.

Victims services, social services, advocacy groups and tribal leaders could also become part of the investigation.

Sweeney encourages people whose family members are victims in missing and murdered cases to submit information to NamUs, a national information clearinghouse and resource center for missing, unidentified and unclaimed person cases.

She said they could also submit information to Hollin, but said he had to follow certain protocols to look into the case.

The Albuquerque office is the fourth of seven cold case offices across the country being established by Operation Lady Justice.

“President Trump has been behind us from Day One on this effort,” Sweeney said.

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