SEATTLE — For seventeen years, true crime journalist Billy Jensen wrote about unsolved murders and missing persons, before turning his focus to trying to actually solve these mysteries himself.
His new book Chase Darkness with Me, reveals his methods for solving cold cases and how citizen detectives can help with real-life investigations. If you want to learn more, you can listen to Billy's podcast The Murder Squad.
An interest in crime runs in the Jensen family. His father served time in prison and turned his life around. After coming home from painting houses, he would watch TV and read newspapers centered on crime with Jensen in the room trying to get his father's attention. His father would point out criminals to Jensen and tell him to not do what the person in the story did.
Years later, Jensen got his start in writing about hockey fights until he started working for The New York Times as a stringer. His first story for the Times was about a body found in a barrel in a house, which led to him investigating and talking to the killer, starting him on the path of writing about unsolved crimes.
Jensen says that anyone can be a citizen detective as long as they're willing to put the time in. The number one rule as a citizen detective is to not name names in public and don't reach out to family members with information unless the police are not being cooperative.
A citizen detective's job is to be the liaison between whoever has the tips, whoever might know the person, and the police department.
"A cop once told me don't be afraid of the bullet with your name on it, be afraid of the 10,000 bullets without your name on it," said Jensen when asked about the dangers of being a citizen investigator.
There are still cases that Jensen hasn't been able to solve and ones he is currently working.
"It just never stops," said Jensen. "There are 220,000 unsolved murders in America since 1980, so it's just never going to stop."