Interview With Detective Steve Ainsworth
Leland Gaines

 

I have been a law enforcement officer since June 13, 1977. I was a sergeant for nine years with a municipal police agency prior to coming to the Boulder County Sheriff's Office in August 1988. I went into detectives in October 1989 in the Special Investigations (Drug) Unit, then transferred to General Investigations the following year due to a need for experienced detectives. I have been working exclusively major crimes against persons, including homicide for about the past 16 years and Cold Case Homicides and Fugitives were added to my repertoire about 3 years ago. I have investigated probably in excess of 500 deaths of all kinds in the past 18 years. I have consulted with other agencies on homicide cases and regularly instruct in different aspects of Death Investigation to the Colorado Coroners' Association, as well as other law enforcement venues.I have appeared on America's Most Wanted, New Detectives, Forensic Files and The Interrogators. One of my current cold cases is an unidentifed female homicide victim from 1954, who we identified in October 2009 and have some circumstantial evidence that serial killer Harvey Glatman killed her, meaning he started killing at least three years before he was believed to have started. I've been married for 21 years and have five children.
 
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I understand you recently helped solve a cold case dating back to the 1950s. Was it a serial murder case?
Well, it’s only half solved-the victim was unidentified until October of last year, when I obtained DNA from her sister on a random shot. I had received literally hundreds of calls and emails from people across the country, inquiring if my Jane Doe could be their long lost aunt, mother, cousin, sister, etc. I had to be very selective in choosing which ones I would have DNA profiled on and actually only submitted four samples to the lab, including the one that matched.
   The other half is solving the murder, which is proving to be difficult as these cases quite often are. I have a lot of circumstantial evidence that Harvey Glatman killed Jane Doe, who was identified as Dorothy Howard, but not enough to satisfy my worst critic - me.

So the long-time Jane Doe turned out to be a victim of the Lonely Hearts Killer, Harvey Glatman. Was he a creature of habit, who used his personality and a way with words to seduce his victims?
  Harvey Glatman was very much a creature of habit as evidenced by the way he made contact with his victims throughout his “career” beginning with his first reported one in Boulder in 1945 up through the Southern California murders for which he was eventually executed. While his MO did not remain identical all those years, his evolution was readily evident as he perfected, he honed, his craft. His signature was constant.
Harvey had an awkward personality (and appearance, by the way) and no facility with words, so, in the beginning, he used threats and force and in the end used subterfuge and force.

What first prompted your interest in a cold case dating back that far in time?
My commander, Phil West was contacted through Sheriff Joe Pelle, by a local historian/author, who had an interest in the Jane Doe case. Fortuitously, I had just been assigned to work cold cases and fugitives, so it worked out well.

Why was it the case went so cold back in the 50s? Lack of evidence?
The case went cold for various reasons, but lack of evidence certainly was one of them. They just didn’t have the resources or the technology back then that we have now and once you have reached your limitations and run all of the leads to ground, it does go cold. Another reason was that the injuries were misread as an assault when they were actually the result of being struck by a car.

Exactly how many cold cases have you been involved in?
I have been involved in probably 12-15cold homicide cases so far, some of them just peripherally, some of them with a focus of solving them. I have also been involved in cold missing persons cases and well as cold unidentified body cases

Wasn't it very difficult to back-track all these cases? The research must have been extensive after this many years had gone by.
Cold cases can be very challenging on many levels. For example, in the Jane Doe case, there were no police reports, so we had to reconstruct the case from media accounts back then, as well as correspondence between citizens and the sheriff’s office. The Harvey Glatman piece was also very extensive, although LAPD and the courts out there were extremely helpful. I also enlisted the assistance of a friend, the author of Cold Case Homicides, Rich Walton, to do a lot of my legwork in Southern California.
The research can be very tedious, but it can also be incredibly exciting when we find a piece that fits the puzzle, explains something else, or a piece of evidence that can be identified, quantified or otherwise processed by current technology.
We have to think outside the box in so many ways, because the information we need many times is not accessible by normal investigative means.

What has been the most high-profile homicide case you have worked on?
The most high profile case I have worked on was the Jon Benet Ramsey case-I was put on loan to the District Attorney’s Office three months into the investigation. Jane Doe became somewhat high profile when we identified her through DNA.
There have also been locally high profile cases; the 1999 Natalie Mirabal homicide and the1970 Guy Goughner homicide. Natalie Mirabal’s case was not a cold case, but was a very satisfying case because of her family and the dynamics of the players involved. Guy Goughner was murdered in 1970 by a police officer in Boulder County and his body dumped in another county.

Have you ever interviewed any of these killers in person?
I have interviewed many killers in person and have been fortunate in obtaining confessions from several of them.

Which killers have you interviewed in person?
I have interviewed Renner Forbes, the Nederland Marshal who shot and killed Guy Goghner in 1970, Matthew Mirabal, who strangled and decapitated his wife in 1999, Ringo Clark, who beat, strangled, and cut the throat of Yuko Aoyagi, his girlfriend in 1995, David Gordon, who shot his girlfriend, Angela Foulks four times in the face in 1998, Jesse Priest, who was involved in a double murder where two teenagers were shot at close range in the mountains, by his accomplice, Matthew Garcia, a heroin addict, who beat a judge in the head with a hammer after the judge tried to sexually assault him, and Willis Horn, who stabbed his neighbor, Neal Blattner, 19 times. That's all I can think of off the top of my head and all but Mirabal confessed to some degree.

What were they like in person?
They each, of course, have different personalities, ranging from Renner Forbes, who was in a nursing home, partially paralyzed from a stroke, his wife recently passed away, who finally realized he really had nothing left no lose and confessed, to Matthew Mirabal, who denied everything and had a cultish church family sticking up for him-until, that is, they realized he really was having an affair with his brother's wife when his brother would leave for work. He was also having phone sex with the pastor's wife AFTER he was in jail. Forbes was somewhat contrite after we convinced him his victim's parent had a right to know what happened to their son, but Matthew Mirabal remained arrogant to the very end. The others, to one degree or another, were afraid of what was going to happen to them now. Priest started out defiant and knowing nothing, but after about the fifth version of his story, which he kept changing, reality set in, and he became more fatalistic when he knew he wasn't going to walk away from the murders. Interestingly, only Forbes expressed any remorse for the murder, but I believe that was because he knew he was pretty close to the end of his life-which he was-he died three years later. Matthew Garcia was in shock after the murder, from a combination of the events, being high and jonesing for some more heroin. He was a pathetic, sickly mess.

I see you have worked as a consultant with other agencies as well. Were these cold cases too?
  I have worked with other agencies as a consultant on several cases; some were cold cases, others were more current cases.

Looking back on your career, are you happy with the way your life has turned out for you? Being able to help other people get some sort of closure?
My family always comes first, and I am incredibly happy with the way my life has turned out-I have been blessed in so many ways and have met so many wonderful people in the worst possible circumstances. To be in that position, and being able to do something for them that no celebrity, sports figure or politician is able to do brings indescribable satisfaction . It also creates a bond that can be attained no other way. Without the understanding and support of my wife and family, none of this could be achieved to the degree of success I have been blessed with.

Any last words for us before you go?
I really do have the best job in law enforcement-everybody wants to do it, but not everybody can do it. My Dad always said “If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day”. I haven’t worked a day in 33 years.






 

 

Copyright © 2011 Leland Gaines
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