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Cold cases

Oct 13, 2013 - By Steven R. Peck

Three of them have 'warmed up' virtually at the same time

When local historians look back on the fall of 2013, they swill detect an unexpected trend in criminal law.

Before now, was there ever a period in which three long-standing, and long-frustrating cases involving the mystery of missing persons were broken -- or at least cracked -- virtually at the same time?

Making front-page news within the past week have been fresh developments in the cases of Tad Paul Barson's disappearance and murder in 2006, the 1974 Morris and a related automobile theft, and, most prominently, the dramatic confession by Gerald Uden to the murders of his ex-wife and her two boys 33 years ago.

Finally getting a break in cases as cold as these requires several things, either separately or in combination. Diligence comes to mind, as does luck. Faith can figure into it, as in the faith in the investigative processes which, when applied consistently and with commitment, can yield results even decades after the fact.

One wonders if human psychology also plays a role. Former Fremont County Sheriff Tim McKinney, when considering the union case during an interview a few days ago with staff writer Eric Blom, wondered aloud how a person who had committed three murders -- in this case his ex-wife and his two adopted sons -- could carry that knowledge within him for so long without being destroyed by his own conscience.

The public does not know yet why Gerald Uden decided to confess to these crimes 33 years after they were committed. Presumably those details will emerge as the prosecution moves forward.

And they certainly ought to re-emerge. In its day, the Uden case was as notorious a crime has any committed in the 20th century in Fremont County. There are many county residents who still remember it vividly. And even those who don't are sure to be captivated by the crime and its implications within each of us.

To that end, hearing from the confessor the details of not just what he did but why, and how he lived with it from the time he was a young man to the time he was an old man would prove not only fascinating but useful to the rest of us.

We all have secrets, after all. Gerald Uden's is bigger and more sinister than most. But thoughtful people often have noted the uncomfortably fine line that separates the law abiding from the criminal, the conscientious from the cold, the meek from the monster.

Sometimes the only way to keep the line intact is to take a good, hard look at it in the brief but intense glare that in this case might be provided by Gerald Uden.

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