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WMU's crime-solving Cold Case Program may run out of money in the spring

Four young women in a mix of casual and dressy attire smile as the audience applauds. Ashlyn Kuersten stands at a lectern to their right, clapping. She is wearing a purple blazer.
Still from YouTube
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WMU Board of Trustees meeting December 12, 2022
Sociology professor Ashlyn Kuersten, right, and participants in the Cold Case Program With Michigan State Police stand as the audience claps Thursday at a Board of Trustees meeting at the Bernhard Center.

The partnership, launched just last year, has already helped lead to the arrest of a suspect in a decades-old murder case.

A Western Michigan University professor says her program solving cold cases has been a hit with students, and has already helped lead to one arrest. But sociologist Ashlyn Kuersten says the program will end in April unless it can find a new funding source.

At a Board of Trustees meeting Thursday, Kuersten said the initiative has gotten national news coverage.

“There’s even been international media attention. Because it’s such a great story, right? It really is like a true-life Scooby-Doo crew,” she said.

Kuersten told WMUK she wouldn’t need that much money to keep the cold case program going. She declined to name the exact amount before talking to potential sources. But she said it was well under $100,000.

In an email, WMU spokeswoman Paula Davis said the university was “exploring funding options to sustain this program” but didn’t have any more details. Kuersten said she’s been asking the university “since last spring” to keep the program going. She said interest may have picked up after her presentation Thursday.

The Cold Case Program With Michigan State Police has students organize and review evidence under supervision. Launched just last year, its work has already helped lead to an arrest in a decades-old murder case in Niles.

Kuersten told Western’s trustees she has no problem finding participants, and they come from many disciplines.

“Criminal justice students and psychology students, but also nursing students are interested," Kuersten said. She added that she’s also had interest from Broncos on the pre-medicine track.

Sehvilla Mann joined WMUK’s news team in 2014 as a reporter on the local government and education beats. She covered those topics and more in eight years of reporting for the Station, before becoming news director in 2022.