Agriculture News

September 12, 2023

Purdue Entomology to host second Cold Case Symposium

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – The Purdue College of Agriculture’s Department of Entomology will host the second Cold Case Symposium Oct. 12 in the Purdue Memorial Union. Last year’s symposium was held in Phoenix, Arizona, in partnership with Arizona State University.

Partnering with Project: Cold Case, a nonprofit organization dedicated to serving families of unsolved homicide victims, the symposium strives to provide these families with a platform to share their loved one’s story in a safe environment focused on aligning resources and mobilizing support.

Krystal Hans, assistant professor of forensic entomology, said the group looks forward to hosting the event at Purdue.

“We want this symposium to be available to everybody, including students, so that the community can find different ways to support the victims and survivors who are trying to advocate for these cases,” she said.

Ryan Backmann, founder and executive director of Project: Cold Case, said after speaking at the 2022 Cold Case Symposium in Arizona, he felt strongly compelled to join as a co-organizer and create a registration sponsorship program for families needing financial support to attend.

“It’s really important to us that families are able to obtain this information without needing to pay for it,” Backmann said. “Even if they’re virtual rather than in person, we are sponsoring registration all the same.”

Speakers scheduled for the upcoming symposium include:

  • Sarah Turney, advocate and host of the true-crime podcast “Voices for Justice.”
  • John Callahan, Grundy County, Illinois, coroner; and Brandon Johnson, Grundy County deputy chief coroner.
  • Tates Nunez and Shayna Richard, co-founders of the volunteer organization Light the Way Missing Persons Advocacy Project.
  • Erin Kimmerle, author and forensic anthropologist based in Tampa, Florida.
  • Joe Giacalone, retired New York Police Department sergeant and former commanding officer on the Bronx cold case squad.
  • Brayden Johnson, a junior in Purdue’s College of Health and Human Sciences, minoring in forensic sciences in the College of Agriculture.
  • A representative from Qiagen, parent company of GEDmatch, an online service that compares autosomal DNA data files from different testing companies.
  • Brad Schleppi, executive director of Season of Justice, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing funding to investigative agencies to assist with DNA analysis solutions.
  • Loren O’Keeffe, founder and CEO of The Missed Foundation.

The plan for the annual symposium is to host the event in a new city each year, Hans said, to bring informative speakers to families throughout the country.

Tickets for the symposium are $25 for students and $50 for nonstudents. Virtual options are also available. Families interested in the registration fee waiver can email Krystal Hans at Applicants should include their name, phone number, a brief narrative about their loved one and how they learned about the symposium.

For more information on the symposium speakers and to register for the event, visit Watch a video invitation for the 2023 symposium here.

Writer/Media contact: Jillian Ellison, 

Sources: Krystal Hans,

Ryan Backmann, 

Agricultural Communications: 765-494-8415;

Maureen Manier, Department Head,

Agriculture News Page

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