Spontaneous Combustion at Its Best: The Cold Case Investigative Research Institute


“If law enforcement hasn’t thought of it, that doesn’t mean it’s not a good idea.”

(Sheryl McCollum)

When you pair Sheryl “Mac” McCollum with inquisitive, interested students of every academic discipline and personal background, combined with excellent colleagues and a state of the art facility, it’s spontaneous combustion of the best kind, the learning kind!

It all takes place at the Cold Case Investigative Research Institute  based in Atlanta.   As CCIRI Founder Sheryl McCollum says, “We’re in the business of tryin’ and we put fresh eyes on every case.”  After a long career in criminal justice, McCollum started the institute in 2005. Students receive no class credit and no grades for their work with the institute. Participation is strictly volunteer, yet there has never been a shortage of students eager to be a part.

Sheryl McCollum, Cold Case Investigative Research Institute,Shattered Lives Radio
Sheryl McCollum

The Cold Case Investigative Research Institute is a one of a kind non-profit born out of “an accidental teaching method” giving the opportunity for students to sink their teeth into a real case, and the rest is history with an impressive lineup of 30 colleges with professionals from which to draw ten years later!

Over their 10 year history students have worked on several high-profile cases, such as Chandra Levy, Tupac Shakur, and the Boston Strangler, as well as many  cases the public may not be as familiar. They are affiliated with colleges all over the country where each case is assigned to that college’s area of expertise, working independently, and combining information from each to add to the solvability of the case.


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 Highlights from the podcast:

  • “Civilians solve crime all the time”- Expertise you can’t pay for from the school of hard knocks;
  • “The Institute is Like a Church” All are welcome, no requirements needed.  Students come with many things to offer such as real life expertise , common sense
  • The Timeline for new cases, action plans, experts and expected outcomes. 1 year minimum time spent on each case, but many go on much longer.
  • The Miracle of Argocy College: A new home and unlimited potential. Example: videoconference with over 200 students for the benefit of one family’s case  equaling 400 man hours;
  • Duane Thompson, PhD –  “an all around top cop”
  • Donations: Send to-  The Cold Case Investigative Research Institute, 235 10th Street, Atlanta, Georgia  30318
  • Cases Discussions- Whodunit Versus Unproven:   Natalee Holloway; Amber Hagerman
  • The Comic Book about the Amber Hagerman case, one of a kind story
  •  Coldest Case ever worked,  “bullets don’t disintegrate!”
  • Update on the Mary Shotwell Little Case;
  • The Bizarre Case of Vi Ripken (mother of in the Baseball Star Cal Ripken, Jr.)
  • FUGITIVE APPREHENSION PLAN- for the future- endorsed by the Army, Secret Service, Marshall, Service, FBI etc… Stay tuned for more!
  • The “nuts and bolts” of figuring out a case – Example: Chandra Levy Case
  • Ladyjustice   describes the Institute as a “Think out of the Box” Institute
  • No sadness… and “a little pool of money.”
  • Traditional academics versus the fulfillment that is received from this “non-traditional learning experience”
  • Advantages for the students – National training from experts on all aspects of criminal justice and working real high-profile cases!
  • Parting Messages for the Audience – the benefits of DNA and encouraging you to help others wherever it’s needed.


“The comments expressed on this website or on the broadcasts of Shattered Lives do not necessary reflect the opinions or beliefs of the hosts, producers, or other guests.”

Spontaneous Combustion at Its Best: The Cold Case Investigative Research Unit

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