Cold Case Sleuths – Fascination, Dedication, Teetering on the Edge of Obsession


In my three plus decades of volunteer service to crime victims, I’m sure there have been those who think my passion is beyond healthy. However, in the scheme of things, I couldn’t be healthier with my juggling act. Yes, often it is a solitary act.  But, I do have priorities such as healthy eating, personal hygiene, paying all the bills on time, showing up for work and giving my all to my clients, taking care of home chores, projects, doing laundry, make my bed every morning!  

As a people person at heart, I enjoy communicating with everyone, try to plan ahead for the next chapter in South Carolina and try to get sleep, but admittedly could use more.  I tend to put other’s need before my own as it gives me a sense of accomplishment when I can help others.  But, I have drawn some boundaries with age.  The social arena tends to be at the bottom of the list, and that’s not great, but I deal with it. Unfortunately, relaxation for relaxations’ sake, is something I can never achieve for more than an hour or so. That’s the kind of skill a future life partner could teach me, but that’s another story.

In contrast, I have met and conversed at length with a different breed of crime victim advocate. There are many law enforcement professionals who also take on pet projects in the form of cold cases. They perform their paid work, or may be retired and become consumed by a case which called to them. It often is a case they worked on previously and just can’t let go.  They have promised the family they will stay with it pro bono.  They may go through the motions of life, but in reality, THAT CASE is never far from the forefront of their minds. They may have to drop everything in favor of a new thought, a chance meeting, a bright idea.  Weeks, months, years pass. The mundane things in life appear to fall by the wayside in favor of the next angle, the next lead.  They cut off people, they may live on junk food and caffeine. They pursue every free resource available that may give them an edge in order to bring the case to the next level.

They often are the one lifeline left to family members who have entrusted valuable information, which perhaps the police have neglected or have no time to review in-depth. Trying to find other family or friends who are on the same page, who can help, is mostly an exhausting, thankless task.  Perhaps other family members do not agree, have secrets of their own and view you, the dedicated one, like that pesky fly worthy only of a swat!

Although they are trained in their craft, with a cold case that spans years with little if any action, the key is often to blow off the dust, to give it new life, to rise from the ashes if you will. How does one do that, you ask?  Attention from interested colleagues, writers, publishers, social media or those with something else to offer like a prolific blogger, newly published author, and national radio show host! Enter me, stage left, sometimes when it’s a good fit.  At other times, as I’ve been told, it’s enough just to have someone else listen, to know the story for the sake of posterity.

Recently, I was asked by such a dedicated person about the nuances of how to tell a story, how to maintain loyalties, knowing how far to push the envelope with others. What an honor to be able to offer my opinion! It takes lots of time,  measured thoughts, networking, oodles of research, perseverance, thinking out of the box, patience, the flexibility to be able to shift gears at a moment’s notice to do this kind of intense work, most of the time on a shoestring budget.

Although I prefer a broader approach to helping others, I am not here to judge how others choose to spend their time. It is very honorable to be the sole voice, the lone ranger when that’s all a victim has whose trail has gone cold.  So, carry on good woman!  We need thousands more like you!  



To schedule Donna R. Gore for your next conference, seminar or event, please contact ImaginePublicity.Phone: 843-808-0859 or Email:



Three Missing Girls From Connecticut – A Lifetime Ago or was it Yesterday?


Debra Spickler, Janice Pockett and Lisa White missing from Tolland County, CT


Shattered Lives Radio recently featured the cases of three missing girls from Tolland County, CT. Appearing on the episode were family members and investigators who updated listeners on their latest efforts to solve the cases and return the girls to their families.

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When we think of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, it was a different time as compared to 2016. Living life was less complicated, free-spirited, trusting, even innocent. And yes, there was turmoil and a revolution of change all at the same time! There was the Vietnam War raging, civil rights marches in the south, an explosion of creative expression from the music world – the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, folk music, Woodstock, campus protests, marijuana and psychedelic drugs to “free the mind” and “flower power.”

On the home front, in our neighborhoods and backyards, our parents never gave a thought to shady people lurking in the shadows or those not to trust.  We were sent outside to play, perhaps for the entire day, but you had better be back for supper!

No one locked their doors. Children went off on their own and DID accept rides from strangers.  They ran away from home. They hitchhiked to their next destination down the road, in a fearless, invincible way.  Those children were classified as juveniles, they ran away, probably to return in a few hours, so why worry? They were arrested for truancy, underage drinking and the like.  No doubt children were abducted, molested, and were also victims of human trafficking (although this term would not evolve for many years).

So where did three young girls from Eastern Connecticut, specifically Tolland County, the Vernon- Rockville area, or those visiting the area, fit into this backdrop?

Missing girls

Debra Spickler was 13 years old from Mystic, CT visiting her aunt in Vernon CT. Last seen on July 24, 1968, at Henry Park, Debra and her cousin were walking towards the area of the local swimming pool. The two girls became separated.  Debra’s cousin looked for her afterwards, but she has never been seen again.

Janice Pocket was 7 years old in 1973.  She left her house at 3 p.m. on her bike, to retrieve a butterfly she had left under a rock.  Her mother retrieved her bike about a half mile away, but Janice was never seen nor heard from again.

Lisa Joy White, 13, lived in Vernon, CT and went to visit a friend in the Rockville section of Vernon in the evening of November 1. 1974. After visiting her friend Lisa began walking up Prospect Street towards the center of Rockville alone. That was the last time she had been seen.


Important Information

No physical evidence has ever been identified in any of these three cases which span from 1968 to 1974. The only piece of evidence, which was located in Janice Pocket’s disappearance, was her bicycle which was unable to be processed.

The Cold Case Squad meets as a group monthly and has uncovered dozens of leads and tips with thousands of old documents to review and electronically scan.

As part of their evidentiary search, they are most interested in obtaining any photos or videos taken during the summer of 1968 in the location of Henry Park, in Vernon, CT, particularly depicting landscape and people in the background at events occurring in the park where Debra Spickler went missing.

Any information will help build the culture of this time frame.

The public should be assured that this is an open-ended, ACTIVE investigation in which all possibilities will be considered.  In addition, a collective $150,000 Reward is being offered for information. 

Guests Appearing on Shattered Lives Radio

  1. Daniel Cargill- Retired Ct State Trooper; Lead Cold Case Analyst; Tolland County Cold Case Squad;
  2. Lt. William Meier, Vernon Police Department; Began as 2014 Investigator with the Tolland County Cold Case Squad;
  3. Janelle Candelaria- Criminal Intelligence Analyst, Department of Criminal Justice, Office of the Chief State’s Attorney, Rocky Hill, CT;
  4. Mary Engelbrecht- Younger sister of Victim Janice Pocket;
  5. Aprille Falletti- Younger sister of  Victim Lisa Joy White


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Contact with information:

To send material contact

Social Media from the Families of the Tolland County Missing Girls and Contact Information:

Mary’s Facebook page-

Aprille’s Facebook Page –

Every missing person is somebody’s child

(Monica Caison, Founder of the Cue Center for Missing Persons)  


The Scientific Methods…. of the Henry Lee Institute’s Elaine Pagliaro

Elaine Pagliaro,Shattered Lives,Donna R. Gore,

Some people go to work and do their job seemingly by rote… It’s the same thing day after day…. But not so for accomplished forensic scientist Elaine Pagliaro. This woman brings a wealth of information to the table in addition to her laboratory duties.   Elaine admitted that she has to be one part “juggler” as well as her many parts something else….    Elaine was the Acting Director of the Division of Scientific Services for the Connecticut Department of Public Safety (specialization – criminalistics and forensic biology) for nearly 30 years… She is…. an expert witness in forensic biochemistry, collection of sexual assault evidence, forensic DNA analysis, hair examination, crime scene reconstruction, author of numerous journal articles including the American Journal of Nursing, and books. Her latest with Dr. Henry C. Lee – “The Real World of a Forensic Scientist” []

Elaine is a member of the bar in several states and teaches criminal justice and the law as an adjunct faculty at many Universities and Colleges in Connecticut.

Suffice it to say that with her many years of experience and knowledge, she has the background to impart her wisdom to “the newbies” and the foresight of know what will not work in today’s forensic world.

To listen to the Podcast of Shattered Lives:  CLICK HERE


  • Intro and credentials of our guest;
  • Answering: What is the Real World of Forensic Science – objectivity, lack of emotional involvement and definitely not glamorous…..
  • Delilah asks about the paper trail process – Where does the report go from the lab and what do they do with it?
  • Cases worked on – Most are current cases and why….
  • Elaine’s opinion regarding making the most impact in forensics today….  – Forensic Biology  and Crime Scene Experience
  • Cold Cases – Done before DNA and her years of experience; Looking at the big picture…
  • Experience versus protocol with DNA analysis;
  • Cold case analysis and Exoneration – similarities and differences;
  • The Penny Serra Case – A Cold Case example (1973)
  • Fingerprint data bases – “Only as good as the information contained;”
  • A father’s knowledge at the end of his life;
  • Delilah asks questions about rape kit backlogs;
  • The factors that turned the tide with many rape cases;
  • Examining materials in a rape kit;
  • What is the answer to the backlog? -Elaine’s opinion;
  • The cost of DNA backlog… How to increase the productivity;
  • Validation testing with rapid DNA testing;
  • Prioritizing  cases – juggling – “Keeping several balls in the air”
  • The urgency of child sexual assault;
  • Students studying forensic science;
  • Scientifically reasonable versus “I want you to test this too…just because…”
  • Volunteering at labs’
  • Teaching – What academia can do to help forensic labs;
  • Analyzing compromised DNA samples – How methods were created;
  • Courses Elaine currently teaches;
  • Contact Information at the University of New Haven
  • Henry C Lee Institute website inquiries:

Questions you may have about this topic:

  • What is Forensic Biology?
  • What is the percentage of cases that go to trial?
  • What is the process regarding working on an exoneration case?
  • What was the lead that broke the cold case of Penny Serra?
  • Fingerprint databases and DNA data bases-What is the process?
  • What are the reasons for unanalyzed rape kits?
  • What is the statute of limitations for rape in Connecticut?
  • How many cases can realistically be processed re DNA analysis?
  • How does automation figure into the equation?
  • What are the causes of the backlog in labs?
  • What cases are prioritized to “the top of the pile?”
  • How do we educate prosecutors re sexual assault?
  • How can academia prepare students better for work at the lab?

Elaine M. Pagliaro, JD, MS

Elaine Pagliaro Shattered LivesElaine Pagliaro, a member of the staff at the Henry C. Lee Institute of Forensic Science, is retired from the Connecticut Department of Public Safety, Division of Scientific Services, Forensic Science Laboratory, where she was Acting Director and worked in Criminalistics and Forensic Biology for almost 30 years.  During that time, Ms. Pagliaro was involved in most of the major criminal investigations in Connecticut and in cases of national prominence, such as the Penney Serra andMartha Moxley murders, the Michael Ross serial murders, the investigation of the death of Vincent Foster and the infamous “Woodchipper Murder” case.  She has qualified as an expert witness in the areas of forensic biochemistry, forensic DNA analysis, hair examination, and crime scene reconstruction in Connecticut, Illinois, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Louisiana and in Federal courts. She is a Fellow of the American Academy of Forensic Science, a member of several other professional organizations, and served on the Connecticut Commission for the Standardization of the Collection of Sexual Assault Evidence. Ms. Pagliaro has authored numerous publications on forensic science for professional journals and has presented at national and international symposia. A recent book, Forensic Nursing: A Handbook for Practice, which she co-edited with Drs. Rita Hammer and Barbara Moynihan, received a best advanced practice book award from the American Journal of Nursing.  Her most recent book, written with Dr. Henry Lee andKatherine Ramsland, is entitled The Real World of the Forensic Scientist.

The Scientific Methods…. of the Henry Lee Institute’s Elaine Pagliaro