Sunday, August 17, 2008

Cold Case Playing Cards

In 2003, a United States-led coalition of democratic nations invaded Iraq. Iraqi leaders including Saddam Hussein were deemed war criminals. In order to help soldiers identify these leaders, sets of playing cards were distributed to American troops. The cards contained the photographs of Iraq’s fifty most wanted war criminals. Within a year, most of those shown on the cards had been captured.

This success led a Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigator to create a set of playing cards to solve cold cases. Two sets of cards portraying photographs of 100 crime victims along with information about the crimes were distributed to tens of thousands of prison inmates. Within months, an inmate snitched out a prisoner who had bragged about killing the three of spades, Thomas Wayne Grammer. Since then, three more solves have been attributed directly to the cold case cards.

Here are four unsolved cases shown on the cards.

On October 22, 1966, Dr. Robert Sims, his wife Helen, and their 12-year-old daughter, Joy, were murdered in their Tallahassee home. Investigators surmised that more than one person entered the house and that those individuals were known to the family. The assailants shot and killed the mother and father then spent time molesting Joy. She was gagged with a stocking, raped, and stabbed seven times. This case, even more than Ted Bundy’s later murders at Chi Omega sorority, rocked Florida’s capital city. It is said that Tallahassee lost its innocence because of this crime. Even worse, the murders were never solved. Today, if the killers are still alive, they would be in their mid-sixties.

On the night of May 9, 1990, 11-year-old Robin Cornell was in bed sleeping when someone broke into the Cape Coral condominium she shared with her mother and a roommate. Robin’s mother was out at the time and her roommate, Lisa Story, was also in bed (in another room) sleeping. The intruder used a pillow to smother each victim. After the murders, he sexually assaulted both Robin and Lisa. Before leaving, he stole several items from the home and left behind a pair of socks and car keys. He also left behind his DNA. It has been eighteen years since the murderer left the Cape Coral condo and vanished into the night.

It was like Tiffany Sessions stepped off the face of the earth. On February 9, 1989, the University of Florida student left her Gainesville apartment to go for a jog. She was never seen again. With no crime scene and no forensic evidence, cops have spent years spinning their wheels. They once thought a convicted murderer named Michael Knickerbocker might have abducted and murdered Tiffany. But the inmate died denying his involvement. Another time they dug up a “grave” in a rural area but found nothing. It has now been nearly 20 years and the case is still as cold as ever.

On May 27, 1984, Marjorie Christine “Christy” Luna, 8, walked about four hundred yards from her home to Greenacres Grocery near West Palm Beach. She left the store at 3:30 p.m. with a box of cat food. She has never been seen since. Two violent sexual predators lived within close proximity to her home. Both have spent many years in prison for sexual crimes. Police have tried unsuccessfully to link each predator to the child. Next year will be the 25th anniversary of Christy’s disappearance.

The cold case playing cards may yet help solve one or more of these crimes.

1 comment:

Sampson Photography said...

Christy was my best friend. My name is Jennifer Sampson. Thank you for writing about her story. The name of the store at the time was Belks General Store.