How the state’s new cold case “playing cards” tactic has had success in other states 

Playing cards featuring the victims of unresolved crimes. (Photo courtesy of the Massachusetts State Police)

By Venette L. Simon
Boston University News Service

Earlier this month, Massachusetts State Police Col. Christopher Mason announced the creation of a deck of playing cards featuring the victim of an unresolved violent crime on each card.

“Some murders are solved relatively quickly,” he said in the announcement video. “Many take longer. So long, in fact, that they remain unsolved for years and decades after the headlines have faded away.”

Working in collaboration with the Massachusetts Department of Corrections, District Attorney’s Offices, and other state law enforcement agencies, these cards will be distributed in state prisons in hopes that inmates will be able to share information about the cases they find in the deck, according to the announcement video’s description.

While the program is new to Massachusetts, it has already been implemented in other states, including Connecticut, Indiana, Florida, and Ohio, and has had some success.

In Connecticut, at least 20 cases have been solved after the cards were first distributed in 2010. Now, the state is on its fifth edition of playing cards.

Among the solved cases was that of 20-year-old Derrick Comrie, featured in the second edition of the Connecticut playing cards. In 2015, the man responsible for his murder was sentenced to 37 years in prison. The arrest, and subsequent conviction, was the direct result of investigators receiving a tip through the playing cards, according to a WTNH report.

“The cold case playing cards have proven to be a valuable tool assisting our investigators with what are among the most challenging cases,” said Connecticut’s Chief State’s Attorney Kevin T. Kane. “Every tip that we get from someone who sees a card and remembers something is another step toward achieving justice to the victims of these crimes and their loved ones.”

The first cold case playing cards were created and distributed in Florida in 2007 after Tommy Ray, a special agent with the Florida Department of Corrections, introduced the idea.

“So we were having one of our cold-case meetings. They had the cards already for fugitives, people with outstanding warrants, but those people were being arrested before the cards were issued,” said Ray in an interview with Adam Janos at A&E Networks. “I said, ‘Why don’t we put homicides on them? Missing persons?’”

In Florida, at least two cold cases have been solved as a direct result of the playing cards.

Cold case playing cards are not used nationwide, but more states are beginning to produce and distribute them.

Following Massachusetts, the Kansas Department of Corrections is planning to distribute its first deck of playing cards in late spring or summer.

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