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Special Report: The Anatomy of an Investigation

CEDAR RAPIDS, IA (CBS 2/FOX 28) --  It starts with a phone call.

In a perfect world, it leads to an arrest.

“The faster you can get police presence on the scene of an incident or crime, the higher likelihood of making an arrest occurs,” said Captain Steve O’Konek with the Cedar Rapids Police Department

Often times, however, conducting an investigation is like putting together a puzzle - without knowing what the cover looks like.

It means getting there is rarely simple.

It’s something Sgt. Kent Choate knows all about. He helped investigate the murder of Christina Sanouban, the Cedar Rapids woman found dead in her tub back in September of 2000.

The story was featured on the cable show 'Forensic Files' on truTV.

“There were just a lot of things that fit in that case that made it a somewhat complex case,” Chaote said.

So in a homicide case, what happens between the call and the cuffs? It's certainly a lot more than you can jam into an hour of television.

“What they show in an hour sometimes takes us months, weeks to obtain,” O’Konek said.

Crime Scene Unit Investigator John McDaniel is their Adam Rose, minus the Hollywood theatrics.

“We actually have a pretty nice lab for a police department of our size,” McDaniel said.

His job is to collect and analyze evidence from the scene, and find where the next piece fits in the puzzle.

“A lot of this's tough to get evidence off of it,” McDaniel said.

The strength of a successful prosecution depends on it.

Often times, those discoveries in the lab can lead investigators to more persons of interest, and to a very vital step - the interview.

“The goal is to get as much information as we can, whether it's a witness, a suspect, it doesn't matter,” Choate said.

“If everybody we can get involved in the investigation can give us a different viewpoint of what happened, that really helps us build a case,” O’Konek said.

They interview while navigating the limitations.

“Sometimes changes in the law, some cases, may change the way we interview or collect that information,” Choate said.

The hope is the evidence, analysis, and interviews eventually intersect.

After the murder of Washington High Student Latahsa Roundtree last September, It took 5 months to round up the suspects.

“It takes making sure we have evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that that person committed that crime,” O’Konek said.

In the case of Christina Sanouban, all the patience paid off.

“Everything fit together in the end, but it's the bits and pieces that just got fed in throughout the process that finally allowed us to make an arrest,” Chaote said.

Eventually Carlos Robinson was convicted of first degree are dozens of other criminals every year.

It starts with a call, and it ends because of the investigators' calling. A calling that gives them a reason for waking up every morning.

“When you're able to bring someone to justice, it's a win for us, it's a win for the victim's family as well,” Chaote said.

The department kept itself pretty busy last year. In 2012, the criminal investigations department took on more than 2,000 cases.
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