March 22, 2005 – Posted at 3:50 p.m. CST
POPLAR BLUFF, MO -- Region 8 authorities say they are a step closer to catching killers in a homicide that's stumped them for 15 years.
The Butler County Sheriff's Department has been investigating the murder of 65-year-old Tom Cunningham since he was discovered shot to death at his home in Fisk. Cunningham was a retired farmer.
15 years ago, DNA testing wasn't available. But now, police are using modern technology to shine new light on cases that have grown dim.
A new administration at the Butler County Sheriff's Department is making cold cases a top priority.
"It's one of the most brutal murders I've seen in Butler County since I've been around the Sheriff's Department," said Sheriff Mark Dobbs, "And it's something that we're not going to rest until we get to a stopping point or until the case is solved."
Butler County police officials are still searching for Cunningham's killers. Cunningham was shot twice and was found tied with an extension cord to a metal storage bin by his wife. An anonymous phone call earlier this year reopened a case cold.
"Each time we get a new lead, it helps in the case," said Investigator James Akers, "We're taking baby steps right now because of the time frame has put a great hindrance on us and we're working uphill."
Police authorities have been collecting evidence in a book several inches thick. But they say they may now be one step closer into catching Cunningham's killers.
"A Marlboro light cigarette was found close to Mr. Cunningham's body and we are hopeful on the scientific developments of that," said Akers, "One of our suspects, that is his brand of choice, and that is of great importance to us."
And while they are not sure of the motive, investigators do think it was planned.
"The only things taken were jewelry and a VCR. The interesting thing is that he still had his big diamond ring on his hand, so that makes us wonder was it staged to look like a robbery, or was it planned to be a murder from the beginning," said Akers.
Investigators say they have three suspects and say it's only a matter of time before this case is closed.
"We're confident that if this would have happened in today's time, that we would have had it solved by now, just because of the technology that's available," said Akers.