Tonight the sixth season premiere of Oxygen’s true crime investigative series Cold Justice debuted. As the network’s highest-rated series, Cold Justice follows Kelly and her rotating team of seasoned detectives as they travel to small towns to dig into unsolved homicide cases that have lingered for years without answers or justice.
By working alongside local law enforcement across the country, the “Cold Justice” team has successfully helped bring about 21 convictions and 49 arrests. We had the opportunity to chat with Kelly about the new season, the importance of circumstantial evidence, and much more.
Read our interview with lead investigator, veteran prosecutor and Cold Justice star Kelly Siegler
1428 Elm: What motivated you to get involved with Cold Justice?
Kelly Siegler: It was around 2010 or 2011 when I got to talk to the Magical Elves and Dick Wolf about investigating cold cases with law enforcement on unsolved cases all across the country, making a TV show out of it while we did it. And here we are, still going strong, nine years later. It’s kind of like a miracle, to be honest with you.
1428 Elm: True crime, as a genre, has become so popular. Why do you think these stories appeal to so many people?
Kelly Siegler: I feel like people sit and watch shows like this, and at the same time, they’re thinking to themselves how they would solve it and what little pieces of the case they appreciate. Everybody is nosy and curious and wants to put the pieces together. It’s something everybody is interested in, and so many people are good at it, which is why we have such a devoted audience.
1428 Elm: There are many online forums now where people put their heads together and try to solve some of these older cases.
Kelly Siegler: It’s crazy, and a couple of them have had some good luck doing it.
1428 Elm: I know you’ve talked in the past about how important circumstantial evidence is and how critical it is not to dismiss it.
Kelly Siegler: Yes, thank you. I feel like I’m preaching to the choir, and I’ll preach forever. Circumstantial evidence cases, I mean, think about 50 years ago, there was no DNA. So if you didn’t have a confession, the crime was never on videotape, but they solved murder cases all the time. We need to keep beating the drum to prosecutors today because they don’t get to be lazy.
They need to do their jobs and put together the cases, even if they are composed of little pieces and a witness who knows one thing and a witness who knows another thing. Put them together and do a little work. Quit trying to get the slam dunks with the confession and everything on videotape. Anybody can work on those cases. That’s not even hard.
1428 Elm: Along those lines, how often do you guys receive tips online that lead to something credible?
Kelly Siegler: Well, not so many tips, but we get a lot of email requests for, “Can you come work on my brother’s case? Can you work on my best friend’s mother’s case?” A lot of them we end up working on the show.
I got another good one yesterday, and I sent it to Ashley [Graybow Stelle, executive producer of Cold Justice for Magical Elves]. I said, “Ashley, call this local law enforcement agency—we have to have them invite us before we can work on any case—because this sounds like a great one!” And that was from a random person putting something on Facebook.
1428 Elm: How do you navigate this show while still being sensitive to the families and not letting it become exploitative?
Kelly Siegler: We keep it real, and because I was a prosecutor for so long and had to deal with the families myself for years and walk them through the entire criminal justice process, you become their friend, like their guiding angel going through the worst horrible thing in their life.
When you’ve done that for so long, there is no way you could turn exploitative. I don’t understand how anyone could do that anyway when you’ve done what we do for a living for so long and seen what they’ve gone through.
1428 Elm: Right, I think Cold Justice does a good job of handling that with poise and tact. It’s something that comes up often in true crime now as people become aware of how certain documentaries can feel exploitative or are too fascinated by the murderers instead of the victims.
Kelly Siegler: What do you think is the difference? What do you think goes over the line?
1428 Elm: For example, I don’t know why we’re so obsessed with Ted Bundy. We keep making movies about him, fictional depictions, and I can’t help but wonder what his surviving victims think that we’re so fascinated with him as a person.
Kelly Siegler: That’s a good point. I don’t watch very many of those because there are so many things that frustrate me.
1428 Elm: A new season of Cold Justice started this weekend. Can you preview a little about what people can expect from this season?
Kelly Siegler: Every time I think I know how a case will turn out, I end up getting surprised. Two of the new cases are from right here in Texas, close to where I live, so it was nice to work with guys from home and drive around the countryside and know where everything was.
Wherever we go, they’re so grateful and appreciative. Everybody is so nice, and the families are so happy to see their case being worked on. I can’t even hardly tell you of a bad experience. It only gets frustrating when we get to the end of the case, and we think we’ve done an excellent job, and we have a prosecutor who still doesn’t want to move forward.
1428 Elm: The true crime that interests me the most is that victims who have had to wait for so long to get justice can finally find it. That was something that appealed to me about I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, too; I’m not sure if you followed along with that.
Kelly Siegler: I read the book; it was a great book. And you know the other thing that I’ve learned in my own job and this job, every single time you start to work on a cold case, and you let them know you’re working on it. You try to dampen expectations. They always say, “I don’t care if you go to trial and get a ‘not guilty’ at least you tried. At least you went to court and someone heard the evidence.”
And that’s what makes me want to scream today with these DAs [district attorneys] all across the country because they’re like, “Well, we only have one shot.” I’m so sick of hearing that. Because the family would say, “Take the damn shot!” Talk to your people, and they’re going to say the same thing. Take the shot, let’s try, let’s do something.
1428 Elm: The first case from this season, Jerry Don Humphrey, was murdered a few days before Christmas in 2003. Is there anything more you can tell us about that case?
Kelly Siegler: I remember when it happened because Stafford is right outside the Fort Bend County line. I remember when it happened because he was a tow truck driver. As the years went by, I forgot about it because it wasn’t in my county. It was in the neighboring county.
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We tried to work that case around four years ago on Cold Justice; one of the prosecutors in Fort Bend County reminded me it tried to work it. But the guy who was the elected DA back then, not the one who is the DA today, shut us down. The police chief was the detective who worked the case when it first happened, he called me and wanted us to work with him, and the DA said no.
So, the point of my story is, when new DAs come into the office, you wouldn’t believe how much that affects the cases we can work on. Isn’t that sad? I never knew that until I did this job. But we’re trying to work the case, and everybody is excited, but it’s not until there is an election with a brand new DA and the DA now is there, Brian Middleton. He actually permitted us to work Episode 1 and Episode 2, Stafford and Rosenberg. And it’s all because he’s the new DA that we got to work on those cases.
1428 Elm: That’s so crazy to me that politics can affect solving these cases.
Kelly Siegler: Isn’t it? And he should get full credit for that because that is the reason why we’re there, and that’s the reason why two families got justice. He runs for DA and look at the consequences of him being elected.
Cold Justice is back with thrilling new cases and episodes Saturday nights on Oxygen.