WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — A renowned true crime podcaster and former cold case investigator who worked to solve one of America’s most infamous cases made a visit to Wichita Falls on Thursday, July 13, 2023, to share his knowledge with local investigators.
For fans of true crime and murder podcasts, Paul Holes is a well-known figure. He’s frequently appeared on television programs like America’s Most Wanted, 48 Hours, and Unmasking a Killer, and is beloved by fans of the popular true-crime podcast My Favorite Murder.
However, those who have never heard of Holes have definitely heard of the infamous case he’s associated with.
“The team that I was a part of solved the Golden State Killer case,” Holes said.
On Thursday, Holes lead a training seminar for investigators and prosecutors for various law enforcement agencies that serve Wichita County, including the Wichita Falls Police Department, the Wichita County Sheriff’s Office, and the Wichita County District Attorney’s Office.
Before becoming a mainstay in the media sphere of the true crime community, Holes spent nearly three decades in law enforcement in the San Francisco Bay area, with Contra Costa County, California.
“I spent 27 and a half years working in law enforcement, both in a forensic scientist capacity as a crime scene investigator and then ultimately as an investigator,” Holes said. “My specialty was working cold cases as well as serial predator cases.”
No case that Holes solved in his career compared to the magnitude of the Golden State Killer, however. His work on that case is what piqued the interest of John Gillespie, Wichita County’s District Attorney.
“In 2018, I listened to a podcast called Criminology that covered how he solved the Golden State Killer,” Gillespie said.
Gillespie said he’s held some type of training for local law enforcement every year since he was elected. He said he considers Holes to be one of the forefront experts in solving cold cases in the world, so this year, why not hold training for local law enforcement taught by one of the greatest?
“We reached out to him, and he said, ‘Cover my travel expenses and I’ll come in for free and do training’,” Gillespie said.
Holes said the work he does with law enforcement agencies around the country is all pro-bono, in the hope that other investigators can begin incorporating a method of solving cold cases that he and his team pioneered, called investigative genealogy.
“When a crime is committed and depending on the circumstances of the crime, we may have the offender leave DNA,” Holes said. “We don’t know who the offender is, but we have the DNA in order to be able to identify him.”
Even if authorities are unable to identify a suspect from the DNA left at the crime scene by matching it to existing DNA profiles, all hope is not lost.
“We can take this DNA from the crime scene, generate a special type of profile to be able to search selected genealogy databases to find relatives of this unknown offender,” Holes said. “At this point, once we kind of find these relatives, we now basically build family trees to see how these individuals are related, what where that common ancestor is with the unknown offender. And once we identify that common ancestor, then we can build the tree down utilizing just public sourced information.”
Holes said it was using this method that he and his team were able to crack one of the most notorious cold cases in American history, and those results speak for themselves.
“We used the genealogy tool for the very first time to identify Joseph Deangelo as the Golden State Killer.”
Now, investigative genealogy is being used by law enforcement agencies across the country to solve their toughest cold cases.
“It’s led to over 500 arrests in murder cases and sexual assault cases that have been unsolved for years,” Gillespie said.
Now, local investigators have another tool they are able to consider using when working on unsolved cases.
However, Holes said that’s not the only thing he planned on doing to help local investigators during his visit to Wichita Falls.
“Additionally, we are roundtable in multiple unsolved cases out of the area and I’m weighing in and consulting and giving some of my thoughts as to directions that they might be able to pursue,” Holes said.
Gillespie said Holes is offering his input and expertise on at least five local cold cases. While input from Holes may not lead to investigators cracking any cold cases, it’s a step in the right direction, and one step closer to bringing answers to questions that have lingered for decades.
“Just because a case happened 20 years ago or 30 years ago, that’s still a victim with a family, and those families still matter,” Gillespie said.
Holes shares Gillespie’s passion for getting to the bottom of cold cases, and it’s one of the reasons Holes does the work he does for law enforcement at no cost to them.
“No matter how old the case is, these families still live with the trauma, as if the case happened yesterday,” Holes said. “And if they’ve waited 20, 30 years without an answer, it’s torturous for them. So when a case is solved, you know, one of the things that I found is that the family getting an answer is huge because now that question is removed.”
Unmasked: My Life Solving America’s Cold Cases
During an interview with Digital Reporter Josh Hoggard on Thursday, July 13, 2023, Holes talked about the memoir he wrote, titled Unmasked, which was released in October 2022.
Please find Holes discussing his memoir and the reason he decided to write it below:
“As I was writing Unmasked, it turned into more than just talking about some of the fascinating cases in my career, including the Golden State Killer case as I was writing it and working with my collaborator. You know, just telling the story of these cases, I found myself breaking down, choking up.
“And this was something that I’m starting to recognize. You know what? This has impacted me as a person because going out and seeing somebody who’s been killed and sometimes the way they’ve been killed is absolutely horrific.
“You know, walking into somebody’s house and seeing them lay there. But looking at the photos on the wall of them enjoying life before they have been killed… It has a huge emotional and psychological impact on the professionals who do this type of work.
“We see things that the general public never sees. And as I’ve talked to other law enforcement professionals who have worked these types of cases or who have even read my book, and they’ve come up to me, it’s universal. And law enforcement generally doesn’t recognize that. What officers and investigators see day in and day out. They are having some trauma being inflicted on them over a chronic time frame.
“And we aren’t doing a good enough job on the law enforcement side of getting these people help earlier in their careers to prevent them from having some of the issues later on in life, like what I’ve experienced since I retired.”