From 1979 to 1982, Lewiston-Clarkston Valley residents were shocked by a series of murders and disappearances that have yet to be solved.
In 1979, Christina White, 12, disappeared after leaving the Asotin County Fair.
In June 1981, 22-year-old Kristin David disappeared while riding her bike from Moscow to Lewiston. Her dismembered body was found in garbage bags in the Snake River in July.
In 1982, Kristina Nelson, Brandy Miller and Steven Pearsall disappeared from the Lewiston Civic Theatre. Two years later, the women’s bodies were found on a hillside near Kendrick. Their deaths were ruled homicides; Pearsall was never found.
News stories, films and TV programs have explored the cases and connections between them. Next Thursday, the Investigation Discovery channel will premiere the latest, a two-part investigative series, “Cold Valley.”
The documentary focuses on the efforts of two women, Asotin County Sheriff’s Detective Jackie Nichols and Gloria Bobertz, Nelson’s cousin. Over the years, they and many others have worked to bring justice to the cases, which have a central person of interest.
“This investigation is incredibly unique because it is so close to being finally solved,” Henry Schleiff, Group President of Investigation Discovery, Travel Channel, American Heroes Channel and Destination America, said in a press statement.
While the promise of resolution is tempting, the documentary can only lay out a case for what it will take to bring the cases to the courts.
The first part of the series, provided to Inland 360 in a press screening, features interviews with numerous individuals: family members, law officers who desperately sought to solve the cases, retired Lewiston Tribune reporter Sandra Lee, who covered the events; an FBI profiler; old witnesses; and people who encountered the suspected individual in disturbing situations.
The second part of the series features Bobertz, who has traced the person of interest’s moves and believes more murders can be connected to that individual.
Inland 360 interviewed Nichols about what it was like to work with the Discovery Channel on the program and why she chose to do it.
Why did you decide to work with Investigation Discovery on a program about these unsolved murders?
Nichols: I agreed to work with the producers of the show for several reasons. They were very respectful of the cases and the process and always kept the investigation a priority over the making of the show. There are so many rumors regarding these cases, and I appreciated the opportunity to present the true facts. I also felt that the publicity could generate leads, and ultimately hoped that the show would help me in my efforts to bring resolution to these cases.
Over the years, these cases have been explored in various TV and film projects. How does “Cold Valley” differ from others that you’ve been involved with?
Nichols: “Cold Valley” is different in a variety of ways. In “Cold Valley,” the film crew followed me and other people as we actively worked on the cases. This presents a unique perspective for the viewer to see a cold case being pursued as it is happening. “Cold Valley” also entered the project without knowing how it would end. It let the investigation lead the story, rather than telling the story of something that has already occurred.
While working on this program, did you uncover new evidence in any of the cases?
Nichols: During the time I was working with the production company, I did learn new information. I also discovered that there was evidence in existence that could be tested using modern technology. It was not so much “new” evidence as it was old evidence that held potential for DNA testing.
Without naming the individual, the show points to a specific person of interest who has yet to be charged. How do you think this show could help solve these cases?
Nichols: Ultimately, I am hoping the show generates a tip or lead that could bring resolution to these cases after all these years. Many leads and tips have been previously submitted and extensively investigated and researched. Multiple detectives from many agencies have worked diligently on these cases and followed up on leads and tips over the years, however, none have provided that crucial piece that resolves the cases. In this day and age of technology, memories alone are not enough for a criminal case to go forward, but could still lead to the physical evidence necessary for successful prosecution.
Is there anything else you would like to say about being a part of this project?
Nichols: It was a unique experience to work in conjunction with a film crew while actively pursuing an investigation, but everyone I worked with was professional and cognizant of the fact that we were trying to bring resolution for victims and their families, which was far more important than creating entertainment. I would also like to say that there are many, many other people that have worked very hard over the years on these cases and are just as dedicated as I am to finding the answers for the victims and their families.
“Cold Valley” premiers at 6 p.m. Nov. 29 on the Investigation Discovery channel with the second episode airing Dec. 6. Check local listings for changes.