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Real Life Detectives

They solve cases with blood, sweat, and tears.


Often described as a feisty redhead, Mary Doyle is the Chief Superintendent of Britain's Manchester Police Force. Doyle joined the force at age twenty and has had a celebrated career of 24 years so far. She has tread a path that few women in this country have been able to. Manchester is a large city, with the problems of all big cities. Doyle will now be firmly butting heads with organized crime. Manchester has between 27 and 40 of them. She was involved in the investigation into the murder of Indian student, Anuj Bidve, which made international news. Bidve's murderer, Kiaran Stapleton, gave his name as "Psycho Stapelton" at one of his hearings. Doyle found his sentence of 30 years without parole to be "satisfying." It was a high-pressure case and her response to being chosen to investigate it was “They knew that because of the circumstances of it and the potential impact it could go worldwide and would be in the international spotlight, so they wanted someone reasonably qualified." Mary was also involved in the investigation of Dale Cregan who murdered a criminal father and son, and two police officers as well. Doyle has taken over a hornet's nest of controversy after some high profile blunders under her predecessor, but she is resolved to bring greater consistency to how police departments deal with cases.

Chief Superintendent Mary Doyle

Sal LaBarbera 

"There is not a street, not a corner, from the Nickerson Gardens to the Sports Arena [where] I haven't been part of a homicide investigation," LaBarbera said as he drove that route recently. "I don't remember all the names. How could I? But I remember the bodies." These are the words of LAPD homicide detective Sal LaBarbera, who after 33 years on the force, is retiring. He was born and raised in Westchester County, New York, and ended up in California because his grandparents lived there. His personal goal was to catch every murderer before the funeral of the victim. When he first started on the force, he was a uniform cop who witnessed a shooting. The victim's femoral artery had been severed and he was quickly bleeding to death. LaBarbera stuck his finger in the gunshot hole and pinched the artery with his finger, saving the man's life. The perps and their families have soft spots for LaBarbera. Cleamon "Big Evil" Johnson, the notorious 89 Family Swan member, praised Labarbera for being his "come at you as a man" honesty while he was in lockup. He also expressed the desire to have the arresting detective at his homecoming party, should he be granted a retrial. These statements were recorded jailhouse conversations of Johnson's which listening officers used to rile LaBarbera. The mother of a former Grape Street Crip, Betty Day,  said: "That Italian is retiring, and I'm just now hearing about it?" He knows my son, and he was after him, but Sal was and is always fair. A good cop. He better invite me to his party." For Sal LaBarbera, the worst part of being a detective has been"someone dying in your arms." 

"The best: being there with prayers and kind words for someone dying in your arms."  His 21-year-old daughter Marissa summed it up for the children of all those on the force saying, "My dad would get home from a 12-plus-hours workday, sit down at the dinner table, ask us girls how school was, and all of a sudden his cell phone is ringing and he is out on the porch, smoking his cigarette, with his work face on. His demeanor would stiffen, his tone would become sterner. And I would watch through the window and realize my dad is going back to work.

Sal Labarbera

Holly Pera 

Holly was made San Francisco's first female detective in its 150 year history in 1998. In fact, only 15 percent of this country's homicide detectives are female. Pera says that being female was a bonus because she was always partnered with a male and "There were some people who would just seek him out because he's the male and I think that they just think that he will get it done," Pera said. "There were other people though that would seek me out, for other reasons, they would seek me out if they really needed the emotional support,"  The case that haunts her is that of Evelyn Hernandez. Hernandez was an eight month pregnant mother of a five-year-old who disappeared in 2002. Her body was found floating in the Bay and the five-year-old has never been found. Now retired, Pera works cold cases for the department. One of those is the case of Mei Leung. This nine-year-old girl was found in the basement of a residential hotel, sexually assaulted, strangled, and stabbed. Pera and her team were able to find DNA from the scene. "I will never forget the day that that report came back from the state with a hit, and the name was Richard Ramirez," Pera said. Ramirez is the infamous Night Stalker serial killer.

Holly Pera

Gene Miller 

Gary Miller is one of the luckiest detectives there is. He solved every one of his homicide cases, but that almost didn't happen. Miller worked for 31 years on Tacoma's homicide squad. As he was counting down the days until retirement, one thing gnawed away at him. He had a case from 2006 that was unsolved. The only one he hadn't solved. It ate at him. With two months until retirement, the phone call came. It solved the case. Miller put it this way, “I don’t quit,” the 53-year-old detective said. “I’ve solved every homicide I was ever given. But that’s not the success. Success was being able to give those families answers.”  His final solution entailed the case of Velma Tirado, a prostitute fatally shot while sitting in a car. He started out as a bicycle cop patrolling downtown Tacoma. It was there he honed his people skills and learned to relate to all types of people. Many of his arrests were drug-related. He taught other communities and forces about bike policing. Eventually in 1998, he became a detective and handled car thefts, which were experiencing huge numbers back then. His organizational skills were so good, he began compiling crimes, creating the crime analysis unit for his fellow detectives. A case that he won't soon forget is that of Anthony Diaz. Diaz was responsible for at least 20 rapes. He was charged with kidnapping, burglary, and robbery, all associated with a long series of home invasions in 2005. His plans for retirement? He's taking a job at the Prosecutor's office where he'll work as a criminal investigator. His new crimes will be officer-involved shootings. He will also develop data-driven prosecutions, and monitor ex-convicts and inmates about to be released.

Gene Miller

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Monica Bennett
Monica Bennett

I am a retired high school and college teacher. I have taught forensics, biology, chemistry, ecology, and Earth science.. Long Island has been my home for 60 years.

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