1985 murder among those possibly heating up for new Anoka County unit

Unsolved murder cases are heating up in Anoka County now that the sheriff's office has launched a cold case unit for the first time.

The county has 38 unsolved homicides dating back to 1965, but they haven’t had the manpower to keep up with all of them as science got better.

Now, a federal grant could get those cases closer to resolution.

"It just, it haunts you," Patti Theisen told FOX 9. "It does.

Pieces of Barbara Frost still live with her sister.

Patti Theisen kept the Dr. Seuss book Barbara filled out in 1976 and photos right up until the months before her murder in August 1985.

But she’s never closed the book on Barbara’s death.

She couldn’t, as detectives never caught the murderer.

Not in 1985.

Not in 1998 when their mother launched a billboard campaign to unearth clues.

And still not yet.

"Not knowing who the killer is, we were petrified," Theisen said. "We were very afraid. Is it somebody that knows the family, or are they going to come after us?"

Anoka County struggled for years to heat up cold cases.

The sheriff’s office has 19 detectives, each handling 80 to 90 new investigations a year.

"We would assign a detective a cold case, and they could work and work on it in their spare time, what little spare time they had," said Commander Brent Erickson, who leads the Anoka County Sheriff's Office investigative team.

But now they have a three-year, $1.15 million federal grant for a forensic scientist, expenses, and Detective Ryan Franklin’s full attention.

He’s diving into older cases like the 1973 murder of Judy Bevers.

"We have to identify the pieces of evidence that were collected at that time and see if they need to be tested for the first time or retested," said Det. Franklin.

His goal is to get all the cases up to the current technological standards and hopefully dig up new clues from witnesses in more recent cases, like the 2013 shooting of Doua Yang.

He’s hoping to see progress in Barbara Frost’s case, too. 

"For this to be happening, I just cannot believe that," Theisen said. "My mom's doing a happy dance. I just have to believe that."

Of course, tips are still critical in cold case investigations, so watch their Facebook page for cold case updates and let investigators know if you have information that could help.