ATHENS, Ga. (AP) — Georgia's governor on Friday signed a law to establish a cold case unit within the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
The legislation provides $5.4 million to create the unit. It also requires law enforcement across the state to provide an accurate count of unsolved homicide cases to the bureau and to allow families to receive timely death certificates in those cases.
The Coleman-Baker Act was named for University of Georgia law school student Tara Baker, who was killed in January 2001 in her Athens home, and 18-year-old Rhonda Sue Coleman, who was killed in her hometown of Hazelhurst. Both killings remain unsolved.
Gov. Brian Kemp, joined by his wife Marty, signed the bill inside the Athens-Clarke County Courthouse, the Athens Banner-Herald reported. Also at the ceremonial signing were families whose loved ones' killings have become cold cases.
Kemp told the families that he recognizes that no law can “mend your broken heart,” but said he hopes the new law helps them find justice, the newspaper reported.
“This is her legacy,” Baker's sister, Meredith Baker Schroeder, said. “This will do exactly what she wanted to do, help people.”
Baker's mother said the law signals hope, but recognizes there may not be immediate justice in her daughter's killing.
“This bill is not for us,” Virginia Baker said. “This is for other families; to help them. We don’t want people to find themselves in our situation 22 years later.”
Coleman's parents also said they hope the law can provide some comfort for them and others. “It’s a big step, not only for us, but other cold cases,” said Coleman's father, Milton Coleman.