These Playing Cards Have an Extra Motive. Flushing Out Suspects.


Each card has a photo and a name for a victim; the date when the person died or went missing; and contact information for the Crime Stoppers’ organization. For instance, the Ace of Diamonds shows Rebecca Reid, a woman from Lumberton, Miss., who was last seen in 2020, and it provides her age, height and weight. The Ace of Spades depicts Kimberly Watts, from Long Beach, Miss. Underneath her name and photo, there is a brief description of what is known about her death: She was strangled and stabbed in her home.

Southern Mississippi isn’t the only place to have tried this approach. In Indiana, “cold case cards” are available for purchase in the state’s prison facilities, according to the Correction Department website. In Minnesota in 2008, the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension distributed its version of cold case cards to all 515 police departments and sheriff’s offices in the state, plus 75 county jail and annex facilities, according to the state Public Safety Department. Connecticut law enforcement agencies have issued five editions of a playing card deck featuring missing people, cases of unidentified remains and homicides; they have published a list of solved cases about people featured on the cards.

Although Ms. Massey thinks that the cards are a good idea, she doesn’t expect that they will yield a high volume of solved cases. For one victim’s family, however, they could make all the difference, she said.

“If one case is solved, it would be worth it,” she said.

There have been some success stories linked to the use of playing cards. In July 2007, about 100,000 decks of cold case playing cards were given to inmates in Florida state prisons. There were two editions that listed 104 unsolved cases from across the state. As a result of the effort, two of the cases were solved: the separate murders of James Foote and Ingrid Lugo, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Some nonprofits and law enforcement agencies have decided not to make the cards, considering them not to be a good use of their funds, said Ryan Backmann, the founder and executive director of Project: Cold Case, an organization in Jacksonville, Fla., that provides resources to victims’ family members.

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