JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - In 2009, Clifford Backmann was vacuuming a newly constructed office building on Bonneval Road on the Southside. It was a Saturday afternoon and he was trying to make extra money.
Someone went in, shot him in the back and stole his wallet.
"He was able to call 911 and spent the last seven minutes of his life trying to describe the man who killed him," said Ryan Backmann, Cliff's son and the lead advocate for Compassionate Families Inc.
With no witnesses or leads, the case quickly went cold.
Four and a half years later, Crime Stoppers is still offering tipsters a $13,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.
Ryan Backmann is still left without answers.
"It's heartbreaking because my dad's not around to talk to anymore," he said. "The milestones in my life, he's not around for, just advice and that kind of thing, he's not around for."
Backmann started working for the nonprofit Compassionate Families, and quickly realized how many cases are similar to his dad's.
There have been more than 1,400 unsolved homicides in Jacksonville since 1960.
"That means there are 1,400 families out there who don't have answers, don't have justice, that haven't been able to heal," Backmann said. "That means there are 1,400 killers walking our streets. They're in line behind you in the grocery store, driving next to you on the interstate, living down the street from where your child goes to school."
To help get these killers arrested, Backmann started a petition last week that already has nearly 500 signatures.
He's asking legislators to consider forming a cold case task force and review team made up of homicide experts from around the state, from the attorney general to state attorneys, sheriffs and medical examiner's offices, along with victim advocates and victim family members.
Backmann is also hoping to develop a statewide database of all unsolved homicides for the public and law enforcement to use.
"We have no idea how many there are, because if you go searching the web, you'll find a few numbers here on this police department's website, a few on this sheriff's office website," Backmann said. "We've been able to confirm more than 4,000 in the state, but that's with only a handful of agencies reporting."
Arizona and Colorado have started something similar, and it's already proven successful.
"I just want people to know that their loved ones aren't forgotten, and I am going to do everything I can to make sure that people take notice, that the public and the lawmakers take notice, that there are just way too many unsolved crimes in this state," Backmann said.
Oftentimes, investigators know who killed the victim but don't have enough evidence to charge the person. That's why investigators rely so heavily on tips from the public and anonymous calls to Crime Stoppers, anyone who can provide that key piece of evidence so they can make the arrest.
If you'd like to sign the petition, go to CompassionateFamilies.org and look on the homepage.
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