Air Force Featured Stories

Innovation leads to OSI cold case closure

  • Published
  • By Wayne Amann
  • Air Force Office of Special Investigations Public Affairs

Two years ago, Patrick Pipkins, Air Force Office of Special Investigations special agent, did what his chief of the OSI Cold Case Team called, “some amazing work,” to locate an Air Force deserter who went missing in 1984.

At the time of her disappearance it was believed the Airman took off with a married man who had parentally kidnapped his 4-year-old son. Neither the Airman, the man, nor the son were heard from since 1984.

The Air Force, the Airman’s family and the son’s mother were left with unanswered questions about the trio’s fate.

Fast forward to 2019, when Pipkins, through some innovative data mining, determined all three missing persons had assumed new identities and settled in Little Rock, Arkansas. Unfortunately, all three died of natural causes within a two year span dating back to 2007-2009.

“We also learned prior to his death, the son fathered two children,” said John Fine, OSI Cold Case Team chief. “As part of our efforts to confirm the identity of the Air Force deserter, we partnered with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to conduct DNA testing.”

One of those tests confirmed the son’s identity, so 35 years later, his mother finally had some answers. Despite the sad news, she also learned she had two new grandchildren.

“We learned from NCMEC that in the very near future the grandmother will meet two of her grandchildren for the first time,” Fine said.

According to NCMEC “The children were found in Little Rock, Arkansas, in a loving foster home.”

The team involved with the care of the grandchildren; the case workers, supervisors, doctors and therapists, met to discuss reuniting the children with their biological grandmother and their consensus was yes.

The grandmother was informed and a therapist is going to talk with the children to set a date, now that they’ve responded positively to the idea.

“A case never goes cold for the victim’s family,” Fine said in putting the case into perspective. “For the victim’s family members, solving a cold case can bring very much-needed resolution to what happened to their loved ones.”

The innovative data mining approach used by Pipkins, demonstrated how employing OSI’s Line of Effort to Drive Innovation not only closed a 35-year-old cold case, but it brought welcome closure to families searching for answers.

“This case is a prime example of what the OSI Cold Case Team does for the Air Force, its members and their families,” Pipkins said. “It shows who we are and why we exist to find the truth. It doesn’t matter how long it takes, we will never give up. Providing closure and the opportunity to reunite family members after more than 35 years, is the ultimate reward.”