ELMIRA, NY (WETM)- As we continue to dig deeper into the murder of Kristin O’Connell, a local organization is pushing to honor her life with a new law in New York State.
Cold Case Advocacy is a relatively new organization. Founder and CEO, Jolynn Rice, started it after learning about Kristin O’Connell’s case. “At the time that I learned about it, I was living in the town where she was murdered and I had family members that grew up there,” said Rice, “I knew a little bit about the town but never heard about this case and it’s a very small town in Upstate New York. So, the fact that they even had a murder, one that was unsolved for so long was really shocking to me.”
Rice got in contact with Kristin’s mother, Phyllis. Once she learned about all of the efforts that have been done over the years to get Kristin’s case solved, Rice wanted to help out in any way she could. “The whole goal with Cold Case Advocacy is to support families who are dealing with really long-term cold cases that haven’t been solved and feel as if they need to have a lot more attention on the case than exists right now,” said Rice.
Rice says the organization is primarily volunteer based right now and part of their outreach is emailing senators and helping set up petitions and using social media to get more attention on a case. She says she would also like to work with law enforcement and see them supported financially.
A common issue that Rice says she hears a lot is the families of victims feel as if there is no communication from police as to where their loved one’s case stands or what’s being done to solve it. Which is why she is trying to get ‘Kristin’s Law’ passed in New York State.
‘Kristin’s Law’ would mirror the ‘Homicide Victims’ Families’ Act of 2021,’ which is a federal law that was signed into law by President Biden in 2022. This federal law aims to allow a family member to request a full review of a case after three years of it going cold, which means all possible leads have been looked at and there is still no suspect. Rice says that some states have started to develop similar laws of their own.
“One of the things that we’d love to see is a cold case unit in the New York State Police that is focused and funded so that families can rely on those resources going forward,” says Rice. She adds that she would just like to see change and the whole push behind ‘Kristin’s Law’ is about giving families more rights. “There are about 30,000 unsolved homicide cases in New York State, at least 30,000, so that means there are at least 30,000 offenders not in custody,” said Rice, “It’s scary. So, we need to come up with a solution that is different.”
Kristin’s case is not the only case that Cold Case Advocacy is working on. If you’d like to learn more about the organization and how you can help out, you can do so by clicking here.
“We believe we’re moving in a direction where we’re going to get answers, so now is the time to come forward if you know anything,” said Rice. On the website, there is a petition you can sign to help get ‘Kristin’s Law’ passed and even a pre-written email that you can send to senators, all you have to do is type in your name and press send.
There is a Facebook group called ‘Justice for Kristin O’Connell‘ where you can keep track of any progress made in the case. As of right now, this is still an open investigation and anyone with information is encouraged to call State Police Troop E: (585) 398-4100.
A GoFundMe page has also been set up as an effort to get justice in Kristin’s case.
There is also a true crime podcast, Method & Madness, that is covering the case as well. It can be streamed on different platforms.
This is the third story in our series on Kristin’s death. 18 News will have more interviews and perspectives in the coming days.