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The Virginia government is taking an out-of-the-box approach to solving homicide cases by placing victims’ information and faces on playing cards and distributing them to inmates, hoping that one will recognize the deceased person and offer details that could help complete the murder investigation.
A press release from Virginia’s Attorney General’s office states that the playing cards have “been distributed to inmates within the Richmond City Justice Center for recreational use.” If the information provided by the inmates leads to solving the case, that individual will receive a reward.
“The loss of a murdered loved one is devastating. Not receiving justice makes it even worse. I’m hopeful that this creative tool will help law enforcement provide answers and justice to these families,” Attorney General Jason Miyares said in a press release.
“Families of loved ones who were taken from our community deserve closure and we’ve seen this be an effective resource in other jurisdictions,” Richmond Chief of Police Gerald Smith added. “We are proud to participate in this endeavor as this is a creative method for generating interest and information on pending cases that could help generate new leads.”
The idea has previously been attempted in a dozen states with some success.
“In July 2007, approximately 100,000 decks of cold case playing cards were distributed to inmates in the state’s prisons. The two editions featured 104 unsolved cases from across Florida,” the Florida Department of Law Enforcement previously announced.
Two cases were solved from that effort.
In Kansas, authorities recently distributed cold case cards to inmates.
“Not every tip received leads to resolution of a case, but someone usually knows something,” state Secretary of Corrections Jeff Zmuda said in a press release. “Within Kansas correctional facilities and jails, we have segments of our population who want to do something good, perhaps atone for past mistakes, and they may have information about unsolved cases.”
A Florida non-profit is also reviving a similar effort, distributing 750 playing cards around the state.
“We had people from the poker room come and get decks of cards, people from tattoo parlors come and get decks of cards and people from craft breweries got cards so that just everyday people that are out and about living their daily lives have an opportunity to view these cases, see these victims,” Ryan Backmann, who started the non-profit recently told the media.
Backmann’s father was murdered “in 2009 in Jacksonville, Florida, and his case quickly went cold,” he explained to the media.
“A lot of times families start to feel like their loved one is forgotten and that no one else cares. And that’s a really, really bad and sad place to be while you’re grieving,” Backmann explained.