Cold Case Playing Cards
by Robert A. Waters
In 2003, during the early days of the war in Iraq, the United States created a set of playing cards listing the fifty most wanted members of Saddam Hussein’s government. These were distributed to American soldiers. All except ten of those listed were either captured or killed, including Saddam himself, along with his two murderous sons.
Tommy Ray, a special agent with Florida Department of Law Enforcement, decided to make up a set of Polk County’s Most Wanted playing cards and distribute them to inmates in the local jail. A 2007 article by Richard Morgan in the New York Times described Ray’s theory. “His hunch was,” the article read, “that prisoners would gossip about the cases during card games, and somehow clues or breaks would emerge and make their way to the authorities. The plan worked. Two months in, as a result of a tip from a card-playing informant, two men were charged with a 2004 murder in a case that had gone cold.”
Since then, several additional crimes have been solved by inmates or even by citizens viewing the cards online. Dozens of states and municipalities have now issued similar sets of cards. Some of these states are New York, Minnesota, Nebraska, Indiana, Colorado, and Louisiana.
Shown above and below are several cards issued by the state of Indiana: