The year was 2005; the location, Polk County, Florida (25 miles east of Tampa and 35 miles southwest of Orlando – the proverbial “center” of Florida) with 7,500 or so residents. What is their claim to fame, you ask???
Polk County is the “birthplace” of the Cold Case Playing Cards, initiated to assist in locating missing persons and/or murder victims.
Basically, a stack of standard 52 ordinary playing cards are used and “transformed” to replace the noblemen, women and sole card symbols with a recent photo of a murdered victim or missing person along with a brief summary of “Who, What, Where and When” circumstances of the crime. Card players, hopefully supply the “why,” or at least tips leading to solving the long missing or deceased person’s story. Following production, the specialized decks of cards are mass distributed to inmates throughout prisons across the US and Canada.
An initial news story on March 30, 2006 reported that a team consisting of the Lakeland Police Department and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement garnered two suspects and their first true success — the capture of the killer of Thomas Wayne Grammer, gunned down by an unknown assailant who entered Grammer’s home in the early morning hours. Grammer’s body was found on May 7, 2004. The perpetrator was located and the case officially solved 19 months later on December 5, 2005, as a result of his information being featured on a Cold Case playing Card!
As the story gained national attention, interest peeked in many other states.
A CBS news story from Barstow, Florida in March 2006 attributes the success to two facts by this blogger’s interpretation.
1) Each card depicts the photo of a murder victim’s or missing person’s
face and “just enough detail to jog a memory… or a conscience,”
2) Bragging rights… As told by Florida state inmate, Johnny Luster, “You’d be surprised the gossip that goes around in jail. ‘People bragging about this, bragging about that. It’s easy to let something slip.”
Ahhh… forget truth serum…. Just put a deck of cards on the table and listen to them talk…
Commonly, such cards are a direct link to the local law enforcement entity or an anonymous Crime Stoppers tip line. When a perpetrator is captured, there are many more to replace the guy on the 7 of hearts, Jack of Spades, or whatever the case may be…
In Florida, initially 10,000 decks of cards were distributed to 2,500 inmates throughout the prison system, featuring 104 unsolved cases. As of this writing, the FDLE has featured three editions involving approximately 156 crime victims.
Although 2010 news accounts claim that as many as 20 states produce a version of these specialized cards, an internet search by this blogger revealed only a handful of states advertising their use on the web. These states include Florida, Texas, Connecticut, Indiana, Nebraska, New York and Minnesota.
More Interesting Features…
Nebraska State Patrol officials reported in a CBS News article, September 2010, that all versions of playing cards are “based on decks distributed to U.S. troops in Iraq shortly after the 2003 invasion. The 2003 cards featured the names and photos of Iraq’s most wanted fugitives, including Saddam Hussein as the Ace of Spades.”
The current cards used by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, highlight 52 cases and 57 individual victims. A unique aspect of their program includes the category of “unidentified remains – such as …
Jane Doe, John Doe or Unidentified Baby #1234.
The exact number of cold cases solved to date since the inception of playing card portrayals is not known for certain. However, one thing remains clear among all law enforcement; they are equally committed to the program, even if just one in 52 cold cases is solved!
“The Missing Missing”
An exhaustive and fascinating 319 page 2007 Homicide Studies investigation and analysis of serial murder victims, including missing persons, unidentified dead, and misidentified dead data can be found by author Kenna Quinet and published in 2008 by Sage Publications.Com.
A PDF version can be downloaded at http://hsx.sagepub.com.
“The Missing Missing: Toward a Quantification of Serial Murder Victimization in the United States. Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis).
In a section called “Doing the Math”, Ms. Quinet states that according to the FBI, in all categories combined in 2004 there were 840, 279 adult and child missing reports filed with only 106,000 active cases… ‘But what about those non-active or not known to be missing? Did you know that 34 to 46% of prostitutes surveyed do not have homes/households/ or real addresses? And… the homicide rate for prostitutes was 229 per 100,000 people in 2004. By counting various hidden serial murder victims, a low estimate of 182 to an upper estimate of 1,832 annual serial murder victims is suggested in this detailed study.
This blogger confesses that she did not read the entire study, or the information regarding a methodology for counting the dead and missing.
I will leave that to you, should you care to. My job is to peak your interest… The bottom line….
So many victims, so many playing cards… SOMEBODY BETTER GET CRACKIN’ (And I don’t mean cocaine).
A recent success story in my home state of Connecticut is a good illustration of what one tip can bring to all those involved in the very personal story of homicide or missing persons.
Case In Point: The Murder of Shawn Dudley: Nine of Diamonds
Twenty-two year old Quan Morgan of Hartford was charged with one count of murder in February 2011 in connection withthe murder of Shawn Dudley at the West Indian Club in September 24, 2006.
State officials in the Criminal Justice Division report that Mr. Dudley, age 19, was confronted on the dance floor by several males. One male in the group, Quan Morgan apparently pulled out a handgun and shot him once in the chest. A motive was not given….
Mr. Quan’s rap sheet is full, unlike his dance card. Prior to this fatal shooting he was incarcerated for the unrelated 2008 shooting of yet another man, Edward Haslam, also committed in Hartford. That arrest also resulted from investigated by the Cold Case Unit of the Hartford Police. Bond on the arrest warrant for this most recent murder was set at $5 million.
This Case was solved as a consequence of information received by an inmate who saw Shawn Dudley’s information depicted on a Cold Case playing card.
Another crime victim’s organization is Hope4the Missing.Org-Center for Hope. The State of New York also has custom designed cards through a collaboration of State District Attorney Murphy and Doug and Mary Lyall.
The Lyalls became the impetus for the cards in memory of their daughter, Suzanne Lyall who was a sophomore at State University of New York/SUNY in Albany when she went missing on March 2, 1998. She hasn’t been seen or heard from since, according to a 2008 article in the Saratogan newspaper. The Suzanne Lyall Campus Safety Act mandates colleges and law enforcement to develop procedures for investigating violent crimes on campuses, previously signed by former President George Bush. However, when the Lyall’s sought permission to name a National Holiday for the Missing on Suzanne’s birthday, they were denied…..
It’s okay to celebrate two President’s Days…. But, nothing for Crime Victims except a relatively obscure National Crime Victim’s Week in April .
The standard bearer in the specialized playing card field is “Effective Playing Cards”, geographic location not listed on their website, but presumed to be Florida…. Their literature states they have produced “hundreds of thousands of custom card decks for many crime stopper units throughout Florida, Texas, New York, Missouri, Ohio, Iowa California and Washington.”
Effective Playing Cards: How to Order (Website Info)
In order to receive the best results you would like to have a deck of cards in the hands of every existing inmate. Since criminals tend to associate with other criminals it is a great idea to send a deck home with each prisoner when released.
In order to decide how many decks to order, you should determine the average daily inmate population of the facilities to which you are intending to distribute and factor in average new inmates received daily.
There are several grants and funds which can provide help with the printing costs. These vary from area to area, so give us a call toll-free at 1-888-80CARDS or email firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss what will work for YOU.
Once you have determined how many cards you need and have placed your order we will provide you with a link and pass code to our secure website. This site provides a playing card template allowing quick and efficient production of your customized cards. You will be able to issue pass codes to as many individuals as you need. In Florida, we have found that by enabling several different municipalities, (i.e. Local Police Department, Sheriffs Office or other law enforcement personnel who have access to case photos and descriptions) to be responsible only for 2 or 3 cards each you can complete your deck in the shortest amount of time while minimizing the work load. The 2 jokers in each deck are used as information cards for your unit.
The jokers plus the card back designs are individually customized to meet your specific needs and their layout will be coordinated separately with you through our graphics department.
Please allow approximately 4-6 weeks for delivery from the date of final proofing. Don’t wait…. Call toll-free today at 1-888-80CARDS.
In addition to prisons and convenience stores, this blogger speculated recently, that in order to create the maximum effect in any geographic area, greater exposure of the playing cards might help in this very worthy endeavor. What better place than….. casinos??? Two such organizations quite well known throughout the country happen to be located in Connecticut – Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods.
Ladyjustice made a call to the corporate headquarters of Mohegan Sun Casino this week… and called the Cold Case Unit of the office of the Chief State’s Attorney. A corporate assistant received my “out of the box” idea warmly. The latter, those gumshoe detectives who are supposed to solve cases, did not return my call… Yes, they are busy, but so too are corporate executives. (‘Wonder what the Crimewire Team would have to say about this??)
Follow up, Follow Up, Follow Up is so important in every industry to achieve any credibility!
My blogger friends, I share with you ‘my pitch” below sent snail mail to Mahegan Sun’s CEO, as requested.
Mr. Jeffrey Hartmann
Chief Executive Officer
Mohegan Sun Casino
1 Mohegan Sun Blvd
Uncasville, CT 06382
Dear Mr. Hartmann:
It is my pleasure to write to you today given your reputation for receptivity to Connecticut residents and potential customers. My purpose in contacting you involves a proposal that may benefit your organization, hundreds of residents as well as law enforcement.
In 1981, my 47 year old father was murdered by a career criminal. Since that time, I have been a true advocate on behalf of all crime victims- those that I have know personally and those that will become victims and ultimately survivors in the future.
As part of this quest to assist others, I have a career goal to move to San Diego in the near future to assist others using some of my many skill sets. Toward this end, I am fortunate to have a personal blog and upcoming website focusing on Crime Victim issues at
I invite you to review the varied content.
A topic about which I am currently writing, could conceivably involve Mohegan Sun. This topic involves the relatively new and innovative method of assisting law enforcement in the capture of homicide victims and missing persons using specialized playing cards which offer basic information and a photo assigned to each card. It is my understanding that approximately 20 states participate in such programs, originally created in Polk County Florida.
In fact, the Cold Case Unit of the Hartford Police recently was successful in obtaining vital details in the unsolved homicide of Shawn Dudley in 2006.
Mr. Hartmann, it is with this backdrop that I can envision Mohegan Sun as a valuable community partner with State’s Attorney’s Office Cold Case Unit in producing a series of 52 cards/placards displayed in the gaming areas and offering such the same decks of playing cards for purchase to interested patrons. As perpetrators are arrested, new crime victims could easily be replaced on the placards or cards.
Part of the proceeds from these purchases could potentially go toward the Crime Victim Compensation Fund or Survivors of Homicide, Inc.
I see the potential benefits to be many…. including a new promotional angle for Mohegan Sun, the generation of community interest, increased gaming sales depending upon where the placards are placed, more revenues with increased activity, patrons desire to purchase the decks of cards as keepsakes, increased funds for the entities mentioned above, and most importantly, the potential solving of homicide and missing persons cases in Connecticut, thus achieving some resolution and peace of mind for these families.
This week I contacted the Cold Case Unit in Rocky Hill with my idea.
To date. I have not received a return call. However, I cannot imagine why they would say no….. This appears to me to be a WIN, WIN, WIN situation. If you would like to view some of the current playing cards, they can be found at the following link:
As a corporate entity, I have approached you first, rather than reaching out to your competitor, Foxwoods down the road. I predict that if you are willing, other gaming organizations may follow suit. Is it not better to be “the first” when it comes to such ventures? I have confidence that I am correct in this assumption and that you will join with me in convincing the Cold Case Unit to proceed with this concept.
I look forward to hearing from you soon.
On behalf of all Homicide Survivors in Connecticut,
Donna R. Gore, M.A.
“The countenance is the portrait of the soul, and the eyes mark its intentions.” Marcus Tullius Cicero
Florida Cards: Cold Case Playing Cards Edition 1
Connecticut Cards: Cold Case Deck
Nebraska Cards: View Playing Cards
New York Cards: View Power Point
Follow Donna R. Gore, “Lady Justice”
Twitter @DonnaRGore http://twitter.com/#!/DonnaRGore
Mohegan Sun Casino CEO Response: (Letter Said)
It’s a” no” to my proposals. They have contract agreements although he “sympathizes with my plight”
Playing Cards Foxwoods Casinos CEO Response (Letter Forthcoming)
(Although his assistant was a lot more personable and supportive.)
It’s a “no ” to my proposals because” the gaming industry is heavily regulated” and therefore they cannot assist.
These replies are a good excuse diguised as disinterest by both gaming operations in my opinion!