Cold Justice producers go behind the scenes as season 5 returns

OXYGEN MEDIA EVENTS -- FYC "Cold Justice" Emmy Event at Linwood Dunn Theater -- Pictured: (l-r) -- (Photo by: Evans Vestal Ward)
OXYGEN MEDIA EVENTS -- FYC "Cold Justice" Emmy Event at Linwood Dunn Theater -- Pictured: (l-r) -- (Photo by: Evans Vestal Ward) /

Cold Justice season 5 resumes Saturday with new episodes, and executive producers Liz Cook and Scott Patch told One Chicago Center how it’s done.

Eight new episodes of Dick Wolf‘s true crime series Cold Justice are headed fans’ way starting this Saturday, continuing the show’s impressive legacy. One of Wolf’s first unscripted shows, the series started back in 2013 and has become a central part of Oxygen‘s true crime brand.

But how did it get that way? What does it take to document Kelly Siegler and her crew of private investigators as they traverse the country to help police departments nationwide with some of the toughest cases?

To answer that and other questions, One Chicago Center spoke to Cold Justice executive producers Scott Patch and Liz Cook. Both have specific, integral roles with the show; Liz is a field producer and Scott oversees post-production. And each told us how they do what they do in order to bring these crime stories to life for Dick Wolf fans.

Check out what they had to say below, then don’t miss a new Cold Justice season 5 episode tonight at 6:00 p.m. ET/PT on Oxygen.

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One Chicago Center: Cold Justice has now been going on for five seasons and dozens of episodes. Why do you think the show still resonates with viewers?

Scott Patch: I’ve been with the show since the beginning and true crime [has] always been fascinating to people. I think now it’s kind of hotter than ever, which is great.

We’ve been around kind of before the wave but I think people really like the mystery, and they really like the little details, and I think they also like seeing closure for families and seeing that emotional element, and obviously catching criminals. I think figuring out a puzzle is very fascinating for viewers, and also catching a bad guy and bringing the families the emotional closure that they’re looking for.

Liz Cook: And there is a bit of a play along at home. At a certain point, once you get through the first act and you hear all these details about the case, the audience is caught up to speed really with Kelly and the team. So they’re moving through the investigation with Kelly and the team.

SP: We’re fortunate Cold Justice is really such a very different and unique show, because these are active, live investigations and so they’re figuring out the answers while we’re shooting them. No one really knows how they’re going to end up. And I think the audience kind of feeds off that as well, because it really is a real mystery that hasn’t been solved yet. And I think that’s fun.

OCC: Because you can’t predict what happens, how much material do you wind up shooting for each episode? How much gets left on the cutting room floor versus ending up on screen?

LC: We’re shooting between seven and 10 days, and the witness and suspect lists can be anywhere from 25 to 70 to 100 witnesses and suspects. Not that many suspects, obviously but a lot of those days that we shoot are jam-packed and there’s a lot of people, a lot of material that can’t make it to the show. That’s where when we come back and hand off the information to Scott. He has to figure out what he can use to tell the story in those 45 minutes.

SP: The cameras are rolling pretty much the whole time that the investigators are awake while they’re in town. And it ends up being about 150 hours or so of footage. Not to mention old recordings of old police interviews, old surveillance, whatever the police have, because we get all those files that also sometimes get incorporated into the show.

There’s just a massive amount of information. You can see some of the real case files, because we get those. All their binders, and binders, and binders of information to go through. But I think that’s part of the challenge of the job is keeping it authentic, you’re also making it clear, because there are so many details [that] you could overwhelm people. Organizing it and cutting it down, that’s kind of my wheelhouse, and just making sure that [viewers] get all of it.

OCC: If there were no time constraints, is there a part of Cold Justice that you wish you could include or show more of than you already do?

LC: There’s so much time spent in the field, where we’re tracking somebody down or we’re traveling across the country to go interview a suspect, or just to search for someone. I always find that manhunt interesting, but Scott doesn’t have time to put our logistical searching for people in.

SP: No, and it doesn’t really make the show, but because these investigations are so real and you don’t want people in the town to know that the television show is there and doing the interviews, the crew keeps a low profile, and so there’s this element of investigating your small town without trying to let the suspect know the case has been re-opened. It’s a really cool element that really doesn’t play in the show, but I think it’s an added challenge. And it would be fun for viewers to see how difficult that is.

OCC: Cold Justice fans may not know that Kelly and her crew have to be invited to a city in order to work on a case. So how does that change production? Because you don’t automatically have material.

LC: That’s one of the hardest things. We like to plan everything out and know what’s going to happen, and this show is just not that show. You have to let go a little bit, because every day something will change. So when we start the season, we’ve had the season mapped out when ideally we would shoot the episodes that we’re going into now for instance, and we have it all planned out. But every week something changes and we have to shift.

We generally shoot two cases back-to-back, and we try to have them planned out at least two to three months in advance. Because some of these cases, [we’re] covering the DNA testing or hair testing or looking at bank records, so we need a few months to be able to get that accomplished. It’s complicated, and it’s like a house of cards too. Once something moves, you have to go back and look at the whole calendar.

Cold Justice
The cast of Cold Justice. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Oxygen. /

OCC: Of the Cold Justice episodes that we’re going to see in this block, do you have anything that you want the audience to be particularly looking out for?

LC:  One of my favorite moments was for the episode we shot in Texas. It’s in Leon County and it was one of our oldest suspects. She’s 84 years old and she was suspected of killing her sweet husband Johnnie Albritton back in 1984. We went in to talk to her at her house and she wasn’t there. And we’re like, okay, let’s go down to the gas station down the street and we’ll figure out what our next plan is.

Everybody piles into the gas station convenience store to get a Coke or something, and you hear Johnny Bonds, the investigator who’s been with the show a long time. He runs into her and goes, “Are you Norma Albritton?” And she responds, “All day long.” And that’s how they got her in the car and were able to do the interview with her. It was completely random. Sometimes on the show we just get a little bit of luck, and she was actually one of the five arrests that we got this season.

SP: We had another one on a far different end of the spectrum. He used to be a college football player, and he is accused of killing his girlfriend and he got in the car. I don’t want to give too much away, but they sat with him for a long time. He answered all their questions, and he had crazy answers for a lot of the things that didn’t line up with his story. It’s a fascinating interview with someone who’s accused of murder. It was a great moment because they don’t have to talk to police at this stage, and he volunteered to for quite a while.

OCC: How much did the move to Oxygen, which also airs several other Dick Wolf-produced true crime series, help Cold Justice?

SP: I think it’s great. I think we’re very, very lucky that Oxygen picked up the show and saw what the show was and had faith in the show. And I think we’re all very grateful. I think we found a big audience with them and I think they’ve been really good to us.

LC: And the fact that Oxygen is a female-centered crime network is kind of perfect for Cold Justice, because Kelly Siegler really is the heart and soul of the show. She’s a strong female and I think that that works really well with our network. I think it’s been a just wonderful relationship and they’ve been great.

OCC: What’s the biggest thing that you two have learned through your involvement with the show? What has its impact been for you?

SP: I think I didn’t realize how some of these law enforcement agencies around the country really are strapped for resources and time and sometimes there is evidence that hasn’t been tested for DNA sitting there waiting for funds, waiting for a fresh set of eyes. It makes you realize how many unsolved cases there are, and a lot of them could use some help. And a lot of these police officers don’t have a lot of experience because they haven’t had very many in their particular town. The sad reason we’ve been able to do so many episodes is because there’s a lot of law enforcement out there that doesn’t have the resources to work these cases.

LC: They don’t have the time that working with the show allows. Usually on one of these cold cases they’re doing, the cops are also working on all their current cases, so they get pulled off the cold cases all the time. Maybe like every two weeks or every month they can knock on a witness’s door and get some more information.

But when they work with Cold Justice, they have the luxury of a good seven to 10 days where their entire time is dedicated and they’re completely focused on solving the case. And it’s amazing what you can actually accomplish in that time when you have the focus, when you have some extra resources. You can actually clear a case off of your desk.

OCC: And those results are a badge of honor for Cold Justice and everyone involved.

SP: I think it’s kind of crazy and exciting that Cold Justice has had so much success. We’re coming up on 45 arrests and 20 convictions. It’s a lot of progress and a lot of cases. There’s a lot of true crime out there, but the fact that these are real investigations and viewers are there, makes it very tricky show to put together, but also makes it a really unique one to watch. I think the thing that people don’t realize is that it’s all real and you’re watching it happen.

Next. Meet Cold Justice star Kelly Siegler. dark

For the latest Cold Justice season 5 spoilers and news, plus more on all of Dick Wolf’s other series, follow the Dick Wolf category at One Chicago Center.