Recent groundbreaking technology has revolutionized the way law enforcement investigates cold cases and has led to breaks in dozens of previously unsolved cases in 2022 alone.
While not all breaks have led to arrests just yet, police have been able to use modern DNA forensics technology and genetic genealogy to link evidence from crime scenes to a certain person or group.
With each breakthrough, investigators have gotten one step closer to finding answers and, in turn, a resolution.
Here is a look at some of the top cold cases solved in 2022.
The search for Melissa Highsmith had a rare happy ending.
Highsmith was only 21 months old when she was kidnapped by a woman purporting to be a babysitter more than a half a century ago. The woman took her from her home in Fort Worth, Texas, in August 1971.
According to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, the Highsmith family had just moved to the Fort Worth area, and Melissa’s mother placed a local newspaper ad seeking a babysitter.
“A woman answered the ad and agreed to meet her at the restaurant where she worked, but she never showed up,” the NCMEC said. “The babysitter called the mother later, saying she really wanted the job, had a nice big yard and cared for other children as well.”
Highsmith’s mother gave her the job. On Aug. 23, 1971, the woman picked up Melissa from the mother’s apartment, where a roommate had been watching the child while her mom was at work.
The family did not see Melissa for decades — until November.
Jeff Highsmith, Melissa’s younger brother, said his family had undergone tests through genealogy service 23andMe and received the results on Nov. 22 showing there was a match with Melissa’s kids.
“One of our sisters called her daughter — the youngest one — and her daughter led us to her mom,” Jeff Highsmith, who had never met his older sister, previously told Fox News Digital.
The family reunited with Melissa, who now goes by Melanie, in Texas on the night of Thanksgiving and learned that she had grown up just minutes from where she was taken.
“When I looked at her, I just knew. I knew,” Jeff Highsmith said.
Over 65 years after a young child was found severely beaten to death, wrapped in a blanket and left in a wooded area of Philadelphia, the little one, nicknamed the “Boy in the Box,” was identified earlier this month.
Four-year-old Joseph Augustus Zarelli’s remains were discovered inside a box and abandoned in Philadelphia’s Fox Chase neighborhood Feb. 25, 1957. In announcing his identity, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said Joseph had “experienced horrors that no one, no one should ever be subjected to.”
While his identity was a major break in the case, police are still working to determine who killed Joseph and why.
Police said Joseph’s parents have since died, and no one claimed the child or reported him missing at the time his remains were discovered.
Richard Cottingham, nicknamed the “Torso Killer” or “Times Square killer,” allegedly admitted in December to killing five women on Long Island, New York, in the late 60s, early 70s.
Cottingham, now 73, has said he has killed as many as 100 people in New Jersey and New York and is already spending life in prison for the 1960 murders of several females.
Cottingham was known to approach his victims in mall parking lots and accuse them of stealing while imitating a security guard.
Most recently, he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to another 25 years to life in prison for the rape and violent murder of Diane Cusick.
Cusick’s parents reported her missing after the 23-year-old woman never returned home from a trip to the Green Acres Mall. The young mother and dance instructor’s own father discovered her remains — brutally beaten, duct taped and sexually assaulted — in her vehicle parked outside the mall.
The man behind the abduction, rape and death of upstate New York teenager Brittanee Drexel pleaded guilty in October to a case that went cold after the 17-year-old’s disappearance during spring break 2009.
Raymond Moody, now 62, pleaded guilty during an Oct. 19, 2022, hearing in Georgetown, South Carolina.
Originally from Rochester, New York, Drexel was spending her spring break vacation in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and was last seen walking from one hotel to another.
Her body was located more than 13 years later, in May of this year, about 35 miles from where she disappeared, officials have said. Investigators determined Drexel was strangled.
Her mother, Dawn, called the discovery of Brittanee’s remains “the beginning of a new chapter.”
“This is truly a mother’s worst nightmare,” she said. “I am mourning my beautiful daughter Brittanee as I have for the past 13 years.”
The body of a young child tragically known as “Little Miss Nobody” was identified in February after remaining a mystery for over 60 years.
Four-year-old Sharon Lee Gallegos’ partially decomposed body was found over 500 miles from her New Mexico home July 31, 1960. DNA technology was credited with cracking the case.
Ten days prior to the discovery of her remains, little Sharon was abducted by two people who had allegedly been stalking her.
The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children described how Sharon was with cousins playing behind her grandmother’s home in Alamogordo, New Mexico, July 21, 1960, when she was kidnapped.
The Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office said witnesses reported that a man, woman and child approached Sharon in a dark green sedan. The woman allegedly offered her clothes and sweets, but she refused, at which point she was forced into the vehicle.
Her death was later ruled a homicide, though a cause was not determined. Sharon’s parents died before they were able to learn their daughter’s fate.
Fox News Digital’s Audrey Conklin, Danielle Wallace, Pilar Arias and Louis Casiano contributed to this report.