Colorado Springs police detective Derek Graham was honored Friday as one of the top criminal investigators in the state.
Graham has worked 380 of the city’s 542 homicide investigations in the past 23 years, nearly all of which have been solved, Colorado Attorney General Cynthia H. Coffman said in awarding him the Excellence in Criminal Investigation distinction. CSPD’s clearance rate is 90 percent, compared with the national average at 50 percent, she said in a news release.
“Detective Graham is dedicated to solving complex crimes and not only performs admirably within his department, but serves as a pillar of knowledge to the many agencies with which CSPD interacts,” Coffman said.
The award is given to a criminal investigator who demonstrates diligence, tenacity and creative investigative techniques in solving complex criminal cases.
Coffman said Graham’s accomplishments include:
• Teaching, training and mentoring recruits, new detectives and police officers.
• Serving as an expert witness in homicide trials
• “Working tirelessly for 13 years” and charging eight members in the gang- related killing of a 13-year-old boy.
• Solving the 2001 cold case murder of UCCS student Patricia Elliott by wiretapping seven phones belonging to the three men suspected in her killing. Two of the men would be convicted and sentenced to life in prison.
• Using wiretapping again to convict Timothy and Deborah Nicholls of killing their three children in a house fire for insurance money.
Graham also participated this year in the The Gazette’s first podcast, Colorado Cold Case, which aims to bring renewed attention to the state’s most baffling crimes — many of them homicides — in hopes of solving them.
The first season covers the unsolved 2017 death of 17-year-old Nathaniel Czajkowski, who was gunned down at local fast-food restaurant Albertaco’s after a late-night Halloween party.
“Every day, our law enforcement personnel make immense sacrifices to ensure a safe and secure environment for the people of our great state,” Coffman said. “It is an honor to recognize such distinguished public servants, who have demonstrated an unwavering commitment to serving our communities.”