MOUNTLAKE TERRACE, Wash. - A Mountlake Terrace Police detective is on a mission to solve a cold case 23-years after a woman was found dead. Advancements in DNA testing are generating new information.
"You can just tell how old and fragile a lot of this stuff is," said Detective Sgt. Mike Haynes, as he combed through Tia Hicks’ case file filled with handwritten notes and faded photos.
Nothing says what — or possibly who — killed the mother of two in 1991.
"Any time you have a death investigation, particularly something as suspicious as this one, you have to handle it as though it was a homicide," said Haynes.
Haynes says Hicks’ mother still called the Mountlake Terrace Police Department, hoping for new leads.
Hicks, who was a drug user and prostitute, was last seen living at a motel off Highway 99.
Rick Newgard was working a block away when a painter jumped off a boat in his parking lot.
"He came flying over the rail yelling 'There's a body in the boat!' and we called the police," Newgard said.
Haynes reopened the case last fall. It’s the department’s only unsolved death.
Officers have spent hundreds of hours re-interviewing people, not knowing if they are witnesses or potential suspects. DNA samples were retested. This time, thanks to technology advancements, a man’s sample was pulled from the mix.
"They're currently working on trying to type and identify the DNA now," said Haynes.
Officers first thought Hicks was killed by long-haul trucker Scott William Cox.
Cox was convicted of killing two prostitutes in Oregon, and is suspected in other deaths. His route took him through Mountlake Terrace when Hicks disappeared. But she was not stabbed or strangled, like Cox’s victims.
"He will remain a person of interest until we identify somebody else," said Haynes.
Despite Hicks' troubled past, Haynes says her mother and children deserve answers.
"I think everybody deserves equal effort," he said.
Newgard added, "She was somebody's daughter. Being a parent, that's all that really matters."