Using scribd to access public documents

While researching a cold case, you might often find yourself either looking for—or wishing—there were more public documents released by law enforcement. For various purposes, investigators rarely release official documents regarding the information on a case, which can be frustrating.

Enter, Scribd.

Some of you might be or have already been using this site to get instant access to audiobooks, documents, ebooks, etc. It's great for many factors, including its awesome searchability. Our friend Charlie at Crimelines put us onto Scribd for many reasons, including document archives. This particular feature of Scribd will sometimes uncover documents that have been made public from prior requests from others. These primary sources are key in Citizen Detective work.

So where to start? Here are three things to look for when using Scribd while researching your next cold case.


Not every case is the same, and it might still be difficult to find any documents in most cases, but official warrants are a great place to start. While our team was researching Terri “Missy” Bevers, for example, found search warrants for Facebook and LinkedIn accounts, dry cleaner, as well as a warrant for AT&T and a cell tower, which were all used in the investigation. Another case example with many official documents posted on Scribd is the Susan Powell case.

A simple search of Susan’s name, you will be able to find detailed, official search warrants regarding her case and those involved. While these warrants would seem random in any other instance, a Citizen Detective knows that official sources like these point to theories, start points, and accurate information to build upon.

Archived Newspaper Clippings

We recently talked about the benefits of newspaper archives in cold case search. Scribd is another comprehensive database with access to newspaper clippings. In some cases, such as Faith Hedgepeth’s case, searching her name on and looking through available documents, you’ll be able to find numerous clippings from The Daily Tar Heel newspaper. These newspaper clippings include everything from a one-year memorial service to announcements regarding released information shortly after Faith’s death. Local newspaper coverage is invaluable. These sources tend to cover the victim more in-depth and provide an insight into their lives in addition to details about the case that can be beneficial.

Case files

Although certain police documents have not and will not be released to the general public, searching for the case of Kendrick Johnson’s suspicious death, you can easily find documents that have been posted on Scribd include autopsy reports, crime lab reports, affidavits, and other interesting documents regarding his suspicious death. Transversely, court statements, interview transcripts, scanned documents, and written statements are also available for more publicly known and covered cases like Caylee Anthony.

Another interesting find regarding certain cases are fully developed timelines for many cases of missing or murdered people. In a search of Terri “Missy” Bevers’ case, you can easily find a well-researched timeline with detailed sources that can be verified for each of the events leading up to her death.

As a repository of more than 60 million documents, you are likely to find additional resources, particularly for cases that have a ton of coverage and documentation. For example, a document titled “Maura is Missing: A Special Report. This four-part series in one document originally published in the Hanson Express in June 2007 and offers a lot of information regarding the disappearance of Maura Murray.

PRO TIP: While the site isn’t free, there is a monthly subscription price, you do get a 30-day free trial—perfect for some deep dives on cases!

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