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Cold Justice: Interview with Yolanda McClary

Yolanda McClary (center)....with Kelly Siegler(left).
Yolanda McClary (center)....with Kelly Siegler(left).
Yoland McClary

Yolanda McClary, the real-life model for CSI's Marg Helgenberger, is using her investigative skills these days to solve cold cases up to 30 years old for TNT's Cold Justice. While she solved many more cases working for the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department than Sherlock Holmes ever did, she is now using her skills for the Cold Justice series which has recently finished its first season. The second season is set to commence Jan. 17, according to Kristina Stafford, of Turner Network.

Although McClary, after watching an episode of CSI said emphatically she was nothing like Helgenberger at all, her LVMPD colleagues laughed and said, "Yes, you are!"

Whether or not she is similar to Helgenberger, it is the CSI star who asks McClary for advice from time to time. Although she is busy traveling to small towns across America digging up clues on ancient cases for the second season of Cold Justice, she was kind enough to answer some questions.

Lane: What made you decide you wanted to investigate cold cases?

McClary: Cold cases have different challenges than cases that have just happened. Cold cases are difficult. If they were easy, they would be solved right away and never become cold cases. It is the challenge of piecing together the crime scene through photos and statements in hopes it helps us understand what actually occurred during the murder and hopefully give us clues or answers to better know how to approach possible suspects. It's these challenges that made me want to do cold cases.

Lane: What were the two most challenging cases you investigated during your career at the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department?

McClary: The most challenging case I worked was a mutliple homicide at a grocery store. It was about 5:00 a.m. when a call came out of a possible robbery in progress at a local grocery store. As I was driving to the call, dispatch confirmed to officers who had just arrived that a young male collecting shopping carts from the parking lot and bringing them into the store (employee) had just been shot with a shotgun by the front door and people were running in every direction. Then another man was confirmed shot inside the grocery store, then another, another, and another. This scene was so heartbreaking. And, was probably the largest challenge for all the CSI's who showed up to work the scene. There were four of us and we were on scene non-stop 22 hours before all the work was done. The suspect was charged with capital murder and is on death row today.

B. Officer involved shootings can also be a very big challenge. The reason being is because we actually have two actions to be documented. One of the persons (non law enforcement involved) and one of them the officer involved.

Lane: What are two of the most significant cases you investigated in your career?

McClary: Most of the cases a CSI will work on are Re-active. You respond and try to solve the case. I not only wanted to solve cases, but I wanted to be Pro-active, meaning to stop something from happening in the future. One day while on duty, a call came out of a possible kidnapping an an apartment complex. I arrived moments after first officers were on the scene. Officers had a male subject in handcuffs in a bedroom, and a young female was sitting on a chair in the dining room softly crying. I looked at her face and couldn't see her eyes, nose or part of her mouth. She had been hit so many times in the face that her eyes were swollen shut, nose was almost flat and lips were a bloody, swollen mess. I lieterally felt pain to look at her. She was crying because officers arrived at the apartment right when the male subject was pointing a shotgun at her head and she thought she would never see her daughter again. The scary part of this story is that the male subject was the boy next door--nice-looking, very respectful, fun, and what appeared to be the guy you would probably want to date. I knew this was not the time he had done this by his actions and level of violence. My only thoughts were who were the possible other victims? How many others? I talked to the DA about this case and explained my feelings about the suspect. I was sitting in the hallway ready to restify, heck I even memorized the VIN number of his truck where most of the incident occurred, when the DA came out and said he just plead guilty. I couldn't have been happier. The DA didn't give him a deal so he was going away for a long time. Now the work we were doing was Pro-Active. He couldn't hurt or possibly kill his next victim. That's significant!!!

B. The last few years I was a CSI for LVMPD. I was also working an Intelligence aspect of trying to link cases together. I found a condominium complex that had some odd activity going on. On the face the calls appeared to be burglaries, but underneath it all, it screamed stalker of young females. I researched all the calls in this neighborhood for the past couple of years and came up with about 30 calls that I thought he was responsible for, including several burglaries, a stabbing, and an indecent exposure call. We got him on fingerprints and DNA on several of the cases. He was in custody within 12 hours and during his interrogation, he admitted that he was stalking the neighborhood for a couple of years and that he wanted to commit a rape. Pro-Active to its fullest. Stopping a crime before he got to that point meant the world to me. I always have to pick up the pieces, now we stopped the pieces from ever happening!

Lane: How emotionally draining has it been for you to investigate all the cases you've handled during your career?

McClary: Every time you have a crime with a victim, you become emotionally attached. It's not just on homicides or attempted homicides or rapes. Every victim is sad, angry, frustrated, or no longer with us due to a crime that happened to them. It is their emotion that would drive me to do the best I could and to keep going. I would be lying if I said that I didn't have days that I felt like staying in bed all day. I think that is being human. I think my career changed who I am. It made me stronger, more caring of others, and ar more respectful of life. This job taught me that you might not be here tomorrow.

Murderers who have gotten away with their violent misdeeds for 20 or 30 years should start looking over their shoulders. McClary will even memorize your VIN number and relentlessly hunt you down!

Fans of TNT's Cold Case should circle the date Jan. 17 on their calendars when McClary will team up with Kelly Siegler once again to bring those to justice who have shed blood across the American landscape.

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