Volunteer sleuths, advanced AI aim to help IMPD solve cold case


While many people look forward to spending their summers in the sun, a newly formed group of volunteer sleuths is eager to spend the next three months immersed in something quite chilly.

The eight members of Team Monocles are using their distinct backgrounds and advanced artificial intelligence programs to attempt to solve a decades-old cold case for the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department.

Ron Brumbarger, a Westfield resident who assembled the team, took a crack at the case with a group of students from Apprentice University in 2022 but was not able to solve it. Now, with improved technologies and a handpicked team, he is optimistic there will be a different result.

“I started thinking about who are the smartest people I know that I can bring to this challenge. I didn’t want somebody that was former law enforcement, I needed fresh lenses. So, I thought about people who have critical thinking skills, are articulate, the kind of people you want to be trapped in an escape room with,” Brumbarger said, adding that the group’s first in-person gathering included attempting an escape room in Fishers in late April.

Members of Team Monocles are not permitted to share details about the case, but Brumbarger said individuals will work independently and gather for weekly meetings to discuss their research, theories and to use highly advanced, secure AI programs to analyze boxes of case paperwork and other documents.

Brumbarger, who is certified in the Simplexity method of creative problem solving, founded Apprentice University in 2013 and served as its president for a decade. It has since rebranded as Vertical Immersive, and Brumbarger is no longer affiliated with it. During his time at Apprentice University, Brumbarger examined two cold cases for IMPD but didn’t reach a definitive conclusion on either one.

Team Monocles will investigate one of those cases. So, Brumbarger knew many of the details of the case when he recruited the team but couldn’t share much of it until the group’s May 28 meeting.

Sophia Delgado, Team Monocles project manager, said despite not knowing what she would be investigating she was looking forward to the process.

“Whether or not we solve it, there’s so much that we’re going to gain from using these new tools,” she said. “We’ll be able to use this information that we learned and these skills and share them for other cases in the future.”

The Carmel resident said she expects the abilities she’s learned at her day job as a student service coordinator at Jet Access Flight Training to translate well to Team Monocles, and vice versa.

“I find it interesting to relate my flight school training with this case, in relation to attentiveness to detail and problem solving,” Delgado said. “I find some parallels that I think will be interesting.”

IMPD Capt. Roger Spurgeon said he tries to find “every way possible to bring violent crime cases to a successful conclusion.” Technological advances – such as DNA analysis – have helped solve previous cold cases, and he is hopeful other emerging tools will do so in the future.

“While my ultimate goal is a successful conclusion, reasonable accomplishments for this team during this process would be to create a new list of action items for detectives to pursue down the line in our quest for justice,” Spurgeon said. “I have faith that this team has the drive and commitment to produce that, and I look forward to the final product.”

After working on the case for 90 days – plus an additional 30 days if the group is close to a breakthrough – Team Monocles will publish a whitepaper explaining its approach, tools, successes and failures. Brumbarger is hopeful their work will lead to closure and possibly more.

“Our ultimate goal is to identify the perpetrator and equip our friends at IMPD with the information necessary to secure a conviction,” Brumbarger stated on a GoFundMe page he launched to cover costs of the AI program and other expenses.

Learn more and donate at gofundme.com/f/team-monocles-unsolved-homicide-technology-research.