JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jacksonville-based nonprofit Project: Cold Case is using an interesting tactic to shine light on unsolved homicide cases. The group is featuring cold cases on decks of playing cards.
Just imagine, solving a cold case homicide could be as easy as playing a family game of Go Fish or gin rummy. Project: Cold Case executive director and founder Ryan Backmann believes it can happen.
“Just by putting this out there, who knows? Maybe we get that call,” Backmann said. “Maybe a couple of families will get those answers they’ve been seeking just because of a couple of decks of cards.”
That’s why Backmann worked hard to get the project off the ground.
“This was one of those things where I thought, ‘I’m going to write it into this grant, and they’re going to say no, but we’ll at least say we’ve been able to try,’” Backmann explained. “Then, they came back and said, ‘Alright, we’ll do it.’”
Years ago, similar playing cards were passed around in prisons for inmates to use as they served time. Backmann’s goal is similar but different. He wants the Project: Cold Case cards to be passed around to local businesses, such as breweries and bars, where playing cards and other games are available for patrons.
All 52 featured cases occurred in Florida, but some go as far back as the 1970s and 80s. The hope in sharing these cases is to trigger a long-forgotten memory. For Backmann, in many ways this is personal. His father, Cliff, was shot and killed during a robbery in 2009. No arrests have been made.
“There’s a lot of people that deserve to have the amount of publicity that I’ve had, and others have had,” Backmann said. “That’s really what we want to do. We want to give them their moment to know that their loved one is not forgotten.”
More than 750 decks have been made. The group plans to feature more cases, and potentially expand to include non-Florida cases in the future. Backmann also hopes this sends a message to all families of unsolved cases: they’ll never walk this journey alone.
“We are in this for the long haul with them, to support them,” Backmann said. “I ask them to trust us to do what we do and that we will figure out a way to raise awareness for their loved one.”
Backmann said every family who has a loved one featured in the decks will receive some. Businesses interested in featuring Project: Cold Case decks of cards are encouraged to reach out to Backmann. They can contact Project: Cold Case at 904-525-8080 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.