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How investigators solve fatal hit-and-run crashes

The Denver Police Department is still looking to solve a fatal hit-and-run that occurred at a busy intersection on Thanksgiving night.

The Denver Police Department is searching for the driver who officers said struck an Alabama judge and his family while they were using the crosswalk at a Denver intersection Thanksgiving night.

Karen King, 65, was killed. Her husband, Judge Alan King, and their daughter was seriously injured in the crash.

She was the 14th person killed in a hit-and-run crash in Denver this year. That’s twice the number of fatal hit-and-runs reported in 2017. Only four were reported in 2016.

There are about 5,000 hit-and-runs in Denver each year. 9NEWS spoke to Lt. Robert Rock with the Denver Police Department about how the investigations into these crimes are carried out.

RELATED | Alabama judge, family struck by hit-and-run driver at Denver intersection

How does the investigation begin?

Rock said it starts by looking into the crime like they would any other scene. They use the "forensic linkage triangle,” which simply means looking for the connections between the suspects, the victim, and the crime scene.

In a crash scene, they also use the "low card exchange principle" which says that "contact between two objects" means something will be left behind or "transferred" after the collision.

Does the investigation get harder the more time goes by and a car hasn't been found?

"It's actually not as difficult as people might think," Rock said.

In serious hit and run crashes, they have a higher "solvability" because it's more likely the driver will tell someone. In 2018, eight people were arrested out of the 14 deadly hit and run cases.

How do you solve them?

While police send out alerts to auto body shops who sign up for them, and look through surveillance and red light camera video, Rock says the vast majority of high-profile cases are solved by the public calling in and saying they saw something or know something.

“In this case, they’ve told somebody, the driver has told somebody," Rock said, confident there is someone out there who knows who the driver was during the Thanksgiving hit and run.

Crime Stoppers is offering at $2,000 reward for information on the case. Call 720-913-7867 with tips. You can remain anonymous.