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Hundreds to gather at Chicago CrowdSolve to examine Newburgh Heights cold case

Can hundreds of strangers solve a cold case? CrimeCon's CrowdSolve event will comb through Kurt Sova's case in search of answers.

CHICAGO — The case surrounding Kurt Sova's death isn't new.

The 17-year-old died in 1981 after leaving a house party in Newburgh Heights. Kurt's body was found in a ravine just 500 feet from the house. It took five days for anyone to find him, and his family swears they had searched the ravine before his body showed up.

Nearly forty years later, Kurt's death remains a mystery. His case made recent headlines when the Newburgh Heights Police Department partnered with a group of Tiffin University students to examine the case, and now, hundreds more eyes will comb for clues.

Kurt Sova's case will become the focal point of CrowdSolve, a CrimeCon event that invites the public to apply detective work to unsolved cases. Participants will gather at Chicago's Hilton Palmer House Feb. 21-23 to combine their heads in attempt to find answers to Kurt's death.

The first CrowdSolve took place in Seattle, where participants studied the disappearance of Nancy Moyer and murder of Karen Bodine.

CrowdSolve Executive Producer Kevin Balfe said the event's organizers look for a trio of components when deciding on a case: support from law enforcement and the victim's family, geographical relevance and solvability. 

Retired U.S. Marshal Arthur Roderick suggested Kurt's case to CrowdSolve's producers, who decided the case happened close enough to Chicago to appeal to the region. 

"It's a rare thing to find police departments that are open to what we do," Balfe explained. "Certainly Newburgh Heights was."

RELATED: Mystery in the ravine: What happened to Kurt Sova 40 years ago in Newburgh Heights?

Newburgh Heights Police Chief John Majoy said he hadn't heard of CrowdSolve until they reached out. Once he learned about CrowdSolve's objectives, he said his department was excited at the opportunity.

"We were also humbled to have this case selected because our thought process was that if we bring enough attention to the case, perhaps someone may come forward with information to help us solve it," Majoy said. "They saw our press conference and reached out to us, which is terrific. Now we want to capitalize on this opportunity and perhaps march toward solving this case."

CrowdSolve is for anyone interested in advancing their true crime enthusiasm. Balfe expects the event to attract 300-400 attendees, who will work in breakout groups to examine file packets on pertinent elements of Sova's case. The groups will reconvene to present their findings for the Newburgh Heights Police Department.

"What we're trying to bring are average people — teachers, architects, people from all walks of life. It's for people interested in taking the next step from the couch," Balfe said, though he added that it's a hands-on, immersive experience. "It's a really rewarding weekend, but also a highly emotional one. It's not for the fan who just wants to sit and listen."

Majoy, who will be in attendance at the CrowdSolve event, added that he doesn't expect to return home with all the answers, but remains optimistic CrowdSolve could nudge the investigation in the right direction. 

"Using the philosophy 'None of us are as smart as all of us', I think there is logic to this," he said. "CrowdSolve has access to a number experts in the field and different disciplines to help shed light on this case. We do not expect to come back from Chicago with a closed case, but we do have high hopes that we are headed in the right direction."

Even if February's CrowdSolve event doesn't yield all the answers he's looking for, Majoy added that it's important to remind the loved ones of unsolved crime victims that their cases aren't forgotten. Majoy said Sova's surviving brother, Kevin, is expected to attend CrowdSolve in hopes of gaining closure in Kurt's death.

"We need to let them know their loved one mattered and we want to help solve their case," Majoy said. "All too often, the victims and their families are not given the diligence or attention they deserve. Refocusing this will at least send a message that we do care about them and want to help solve their case." 

Tickets for Chicago CrowdSolve are extremely limited. Click here to register for yours.  

RELATED: Newburgh Heights police partner with Tiffin University students on 1981 cold case