In 2000, a friend discovered Anastasia Stepanchikov, a pretty 29-year-old prostitute from the Ukraine, beaten and shot to death inside her luxury Studio City apartment. Police speculated at the time that Russian organized crime may have been involved. Despite an exhaustive investigation by detectives of the LAPD Homicide Special Section, they never identified the killer or brought them to justice. The leads dried up, and the case went cold.
Twenty-one years later, Detective Howard Drew and his partner in the Robbery-Homicide Division’s Open-Unsolved Unit reopen the investigation when they receive a DNA cold hit. Unsolved homicides tend to remain unsolved—twenty-one-year-old riddles deepen with the passage of time, the death and disappearance of witnesses, and the blurring of consciousness.
Circumstances raise the stakes when Drew comes to realize he has taken on a politically charged case when the DNA match points to a powerful figure in Los Angeles. The original investigators may have missed a clue, or worse yet, turned a blind eye back in 2000 that could have led them to the killer and cleared the case decades earlier.
Larry Darter, a retired police officer turned crime fiction writer is the author of ten previous novels, including five novels in the Los Angeles based Malone Mystery series. More than twenty years of law enforcement experience uniquely positions Larry to write the style of gritty, realistic mystery/thrillers that crime fiction fans love to read.
Having spent the majority of his life as a voracious reader of detective mysteries and police procedurals, Larry is heavily influenced by writers ranging from Raymond Chandler to Robert B. Parker, and Joseph Wambaugh to John Sandford.
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In 2004, California voters approved Proposition 69. The measure requires that criminal justice agencies take DNA samples from many suspects, as well as convicted criminals. Police say the LAPD might need to triple the number of officers to handle the avalanche of "cold hits" coming down the road generated by Proposition 69. In Darker Angels, Howard Drew and his partner Amy Lin, members of the LAPD Open-Unsolved Section, pursue the investigation of a 21-one-year-old murder based on a cold hit.
Drew picked up the letter he had ignored when the clerk left it on his desk. It had a DOJ return address and Drew knew it was a DNA cold hit. He pulled out the letter and recognized the case number. It was a 2000 open-unsolved he and Li had reviewed six-months previously. They had found a pair of women’s slacks in the evidence box with a small bloodstain on one cuff. When they checked the murder book, they found no mention of the slacks by the original investigators and no sign they had submitted the slacks to the lab for testing and analysis. There was no DNA, no fingerprints, no leads—nothing that met the unit’s criteria for reopening the case. But the detectives had sent the garment to the Hertzberg-Davis Forensic Science Center’s Serology/DNA Unit for analysis before returning the box to the archives. Evidently, the lab had extracted DNA from the bloodstain and uploaded the profile into CODIS, the Combined DNA Index System, for searching against state and federal databases of known offenders. The automated system had generated a single match, or in the parlance of the Open-Unsolved Unit, a cold hit.