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Police make renewed attempt to solve E. Idaho cold cases

SHARE Police make renewed attempt to solve E. Idaho cold cases

POCATELLO (AP) — More than 25 years ago, Ben Smith, then 9 years old, watched a stranger carry his 14-year-old sister out of their home and into a van.

Linda Smith's clothes were found a week later scattered in a pit near Interstate 15. Four months after that, in October 1981, her skull was found in a ravine.

Now two police detectives in this eastern Idaho city say they are taking another crack at trying to solve the case.

"In the past, there have been one or two people who have handled all the cold cases," said Jim McCoy, who is working the case with Jeff Katona. "I've read the entire case file, and so has he. We have come to the conclusion that we need to treat this as a fresh case."

Ben Smith now lives with a family of his own in Brigham City, Utah. He said has been skeptical of police promises to look into the case, starting with the night his sister disappeared.

After the van carrying Linda sped off that night, he ran to call police. But he said police didn't believe him when he explained what had happened — they thought the story had been made up and Linda had run away.

"It looks like they are actually committed to getting to the bottom of this," Smith told the Idaho State Journal. "The progress they have shown and the sincerity has been a big improvement over what we've seen in the past."

McCoy said he and Katona have interviewed people in the last few weeks about the case.

Kirk Nelson, a retired Pocatello police captain, said Linda's abduction is probably connected to four other abductions and killings involving Pocatello girls between 1978 and 1983.

"In a town this size, the odds of all these girls being abducted and killed by different people (are) astronomical," said Nelson, one of the original investigators on the Smith case.

The four others who disappeared were all students at Alameda Junior High.

Patricia Campbell, 15, disappeared from Pocatello's Alameda Park, along with Tina Anderson, during a 1978 Pioneer Day celebration. Tina's body was identified through dental records in 1981. Cindy Bringhurst, 14, vanished from a baby-sitting job in 1983. Like Linda, her remains were later found near Pocatello.

Patricia's remains were identified last month.

"I'm feeling pretty positive right now I guess after what they did with Campbell's remains being identified," Ben Smith said. "The impression I got from Katona is that they've made leaps and bounds on (the Anderson and Campbell) cases."