Team leader explains show’s selection process

Robert Smith
Kelly Siegler

Osage County has benefited the past few months from help provided by an investigative team working with the television series “Cold Justice,” with the result that three area “cold cases” have been cleared. Prosecutors have filed a charge in each of two cases, and the third has been determined to apparently not be a criminal matter.

“We’re always wanting to close these cold cases and bring families closure,” Osage County Sheriff Eddie Virden said. He added that he’s willing to use every avenue of help available.

Kelly Siegler, who spent more than two decades as a prosecutor in Harris County, Texas (Houston), leads the team of investigators that helped Osage County. Her “Cold Justice” team was responsible, as of late last week, for helping to make possible 40 arrests and 19 convictions.

Siegler’s background includes having handled approximately 200 jury trials, and she has lectured all over the country on topics such as “Final Arguments,” “Jury Presentation,” “Arguing Effectively for a Death Sentence” and “How to Pick a Jury.”

“I sure never thought, when I started out when I was 23 years old, that I would end up doing this,” Siegler said in a telephone interview Friday, as she reflected on the unexpected turn that her career as a crime fighter has taken.

She commented just a couple of days before an episode of “Cold Justice,” regarding one of the Osage County cases her team helped to investigate was scheduled to be aired. The program, which was scheduled to air last Sunday, was titled “Pain in Pawhuska” and dealt with the 1996 killing of Joannie Goodwin.

Siegler said the television program, which is a feature of the Oxygen digital cable and satellite channel, has a group of people based in Los Angeles that does research to find cases that the investigative team can attempt to address. There are some limitations, she said, explaining that gang shootings typically take too long to solve. The selection process also involves a group of readers (she is a member of that panel) who review material about cases.

Ultimately, however, the thing that makes the most difference regarding whether or not Siegler’s team is able to help work a case for a jurisdiction that may not have extensive resources is the willingness of law enforcement and prosecutors and victim families to accept that help.

“The local law enforcement agency has to want us. The D.A. has to agree and the family has to agree,” Siegler said. In Osage County, those interests came into alignment, she said.

“They couldn’t have been any more welcoming and excited,” she said. Siegler also voiced satisfaction that the second Osage County investigation that yielded the filing of a charge, in the 2011 death of Donna Wilson, has come to that point in its development.

She clarified that her team does not actually help try cases. It gets out of the way of local authorities so they can try the cases that have been built through investigation.

Two members of Siegler’s team who helped in Osage County are Steve Spingola and Johnny Bonds.