STATESVILLE, N.C. (WJZY) — A group of unlikely investigators is breathing new life into Statesville cold cases.

Five retired police officers are rejoining the Statesville Police Department to work on solving decades-old crimes. Their first case is a 31-year-old homicide.

Stabbing victim Ethel Weaver died in her home on Jan. 4, 1992, just a day before her 69th birthday. Though it happened more than three decades ago, Mary Davidson still remembers it like yesterday.

“They told me somebody done killed my mama. And I just started crying,” she said.

Though police interviewed several people, they never identified a suspect.

“It really upset me, and it always has. And it just don’t go away. You’re always wondering who would do this,” said Davidson.

Amidst unprecedented staffing shortages during the pandemic, the police department used retired officers to help run background investigations on new hires. Once they caught up with their workload, they realized they could use these retirees in new ways.

“It’s a very good thing for us because, in the transition period that we’re in, we have a lot of young officers, which means we have a lot of young investigators that don’t have a lot of experience,” said Statesville Police Chief David Onley.

Bill Riter is one of five retired investigators devoting at least 20 hours per week to the Weaver case.

“It’s like solving a puzzle. Once you get it in your blood, it’s hard to get out of it,” said Riter. “One way or the other, we’re going to get it solved.”

Riter was on the Statesville Police force on and off from 1980 until his retirement in 2014. The man worked for the agency during Weaver’s death, but it happened during a different shift.

With this investigation, he knows there will be challenges and newfound bits of hope that can only come with time.

“There’s going to be some people deceased. There’s going to be some people with Alzheimer’s and dementia,” said Reiter. “With the new technology we have, and some things had already been sent out for DNA, we have it even better now.”

Through it all is a devoted daughter who never lost faith.

“I can say that much, that he hasn’t been forgotten. That’s for sure,” said Davidson.