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Law&Crime Announces America’s Greatest Detective Finalists

Brilliant detective work has fascinated, educated and entertained people for ages. Yet, the people who perform this amazing detective work on a daily basis are rarely recognized outside their locality.

Law&Crime intends to change that with America’s Greatest Detective, a title to be awarded annually which will recognize the most brilliant investigative work done by teams or individuals working in or adjacent to law enforcement. 

For the 2nd year in a row, Law&Crime’s team has carefully selected three nominees from across a wide range of investigative professions. Now we’re inviting our audience members to vote on who they think best deserves the title of America’s Greatest Detective. 

This year’s nominees include: Senior Inspector Laura Tierney, US Marshals Services Liaison with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children ; Detective Julia Oliveira, first ever Missing or Murdered Indigenous Peoples Investigator with the Yurok Tribe in northern California ; and Gene & Sandy Ralston, sonar technology investigation specialists and the Founders/Directors of Ralston Underwater Search & Recovery Team. 

Please enjoy our 2024 finalist’s investigation stories below, and vote here. 

Detective Julia Oliveira: 

Detective Julia Oliveira

Julia Oliveira currently serves as the Missing or Murdered Indigenous Peoples (MMIP) Investigator with the Yurok tribe in Northern California, and is the first ever to serve in this position. Prior to appointment as MMIP Investigator, Detective Oliveira served for over 20 years with the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office, as well as another four years with the Blue Lake Rancheria Tribal Police Department. 

On her appointment to this unprecedented position and being given the opportunity to take on the specific demands of MMIP investigation, Oliveira states that “I feel like because these folks trusted me and believed in me, it’s helped me step forward and want to do the very best I can. But these families are so important, and so are the things that I hope to work on in the future, like educating law enforcement in indigenous culture, and why this is such an immense thing that they need to step up and pay attention to as well.” 

Gene and Sandy Ralston: 

Gene & Sandy Ralston

Gene and Sandy Ralston are the founders and operators of Ralston Underwater Search and Recovery Team, which they launched in 2000 to lead missing persons searches with side scan sonar technology. Scientists by trade, they have been involved with missing persons recovery since 1983. Since beginning their involvement with underwater searches, they have found 132 individuals and participated in 24 homicide investigations.

A successful search and recovery mission for the Ralstons always boils down to the very small details. Gene and Sandy credit their scientific background with propelling them to this point as self-taught investigators: “Science education teaches you how to think and question and evaluate facts, rather than teaching you what to think and blindly believe.”

Senior Inspector Laura Tierney:

Senior Inspector Laura Tierney

Laura Tierney is a senior inspector with the U.S. Marshals Service in the missing child Unit. She is also the agency’s liaison to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), through which she helped lead and facilitate Operation We Will Find You to successfully locate 225 missing children. She has been with the Marshals services for almost 15 years, and in her role with the missing child unit for the past 4 years. 

When it comes to the challenges of carrying out complex investigations across numerous jurisdictions, Tierney attributes a lot of her success as an investigator to simple, tried and true teamwork: “I would say the ability to work as a team, to realize that success is often due to a team and not just an individual. Being open minded, obviously having passion for the mission, and the ability to work really long hours.” 

About Crime Con: 

Attendees of Crime Con in Nashville, TN will also have the opportunity to hear Law&Crime’s 2024 nominees speak on their most fascinating investigations and the hard work that goes into serving their communities by solving crime. Leading the panel to uncover how the nation’s top detectives get the job done will be Sean “Sticks” Larkin and Law&Crime’s Jesse Weber. 

Last year’s winner – and first investigator ever to be named America’s Greatest Detective – was Special Fields Bureau Chief Cynthia Garza of the Dallas County Conviction Integrity Unit.