First Impressions

Cold Justice

Aired on: TNT

Reviewed by Melissa Minners

                I've enjoyed quite a few dramatic television series on TNT, from The Closer to Rizzoli & Isles to Major Crimes, so when the network began advertising a new reality-based crime show, I took notice.  Claiming to take on and solve cold cases all across America, Cold Justice seemed interesting to me...but could they really make good on their claims?  The only way to find out was to check out their season premiere on Tuesday, September 3, 2013 at 10pm EST.

                Cold Justice stars former Prosecutor Kelly Siegler and Crime Scene Investigator Yolanda McClary as two bulldog/bloodhound-type personalities looking for justice in cold cases.  A cold case is an investigative case with no resolution, called cold due to the lack of evidence or movement in the case - "the trail has run cold."  Contrary to the way the show was promoted, Siegler and McClary aren't exactly traveling everywhere in America to solve cold cases.  In actuality, they are traveling through small town America - areas where CSI technology isn't easily afforded and police departments are rather small.

                The premiere episode of Cold Justice features a case from Cuero, Texas.  In January 2001, Pamela Curlee Shelly, a 31-year-old mother of two died of a fatal gunshot wound to the head.  Present at the scene were her children and her lover, Ronnie Hendrick.  Carl Bowen of the Dewitt County Sheriffs Department has always believed that Hendrick had something to do with the shooting, but has been unable to prove the case.  Unfortunately, Pamela had still been alive when the shooting had been called in to 911 and first responders had trod on the crime scene in an effort to save her.  Thus, there was little usable evidence at the scene.

                Further hampering factors were the Hendrick family's statements regarding the shooting, which contradicted the statement of Pam's thirteen-year-old daughter Kayla, who insisted that her mother was shot by Ronnie Hendrick after a fight between the two prompted Pam to leave Ronnie.  Even worse, the angle and trajectory of the bullet was enough for the medical examiner to rule the death a suicide.

                Now, eleven years later, Siegler and McClary have come to the aide of Carl Bowen and Kayla Shelly in an effort to solve the newly reopened case of Pamela Curlee Shelly's death.  To do so, they are assisted by Johnny Bonds, an expert interrogator, who begins interviewing everyone involved in the case, looking for inconsistencies that can crack it wide open.  Meanwhile, McClary looks for evidence that might suggest something other than suicide.  The group studies the case inside and out and use new findings together with what they can piece together from the earlier investigation to prove their case for indictment of Ronnie Hendrick for the murder of Pamela Curlee Shelly.

                This case was pretty cut and dry - all that was needed was evidence.  From the very beginning, even before Kayla was interviewed, there was no doubt in my mind that Ronnie Hendrick was the killer.  Sure, the case against him was circumstantial, but based on his past assaultive background and the strange inconsistencies in the statements, I figured the group was on the right track.  The case was interesting and I was rooting for indictment with everyone else. 

                But there are a couple of problems with this series that have me worrying about its future.  First, they are only trying to tackle crimes in small town America.  This may rankle the fur of some of these small town departments who are going to look at these investigators as "big-city types looking to show us poor country bumpkins how to solve a crime."  Now, I know that these folks are taking these cases on the basis of requests for help from law enforcement agencies, but I wonder how many would balk at making this request based on the idea above.  And what about crimes in larger cities?  What about their cold cases?  Can those not be handled or solved by Siegler and McClary?

                That brings me to another point - these cases aren't exactly being solved.  Sure, an indictment was granted by a grand jury in the case of Pamela Curlee Shelly, but the case hasn't yet gone to trial.  What if Hendrick isn't convicted of Shelly's murder?  Will that case have been truly solved?  And are all the cases on the Siegler/McClary plate going to be this easy?  Is there always going to be a prime suspect?  Will there always be evidence pointing towards someone?  What about the cold cases out there in which there are no suspects?  Will Siegler and McClary be taking those types of cases on?

                I guess there is only one way to find out.  After all, Kelly Siegler and Yolanda McClary are likeable professionals with a goal any law abiding citizen can understand - to catch the bad guys and bring justice to their victims.  They are tiresome in their efforts and take the cases personally until they have done all they can do to help.  That is something to be commended and so, I think I'll watch this show some more.  If Cold Justice helps put at least a few bad apples in jail, the more's the better.


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