Missouri inmates to get playing cards on 52 unsolved cases

Thursday, March 29, 2007

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Police and a crime-fighting group will be giving out decks of playing cards to inmates in area jails and Missouri prisons, but they aren't promoting just fun and games.

The cards will contain information about 52 unsolved homicides or missing person cases. The theory is that inmates, who pass a lot of time playing cards, may hear some information or know something about the cases and tip-off police.

The program originated in Florida, where the Heartland Crimestoppers have distributed 35,000 decks of cards since September 2005. The cards have generated 88 tips and led to two arrests, with good leads in three or four other cases, said Wayne Cross, Heartland's executive director.

"We think it's a success," Cross said. "And the victims' families are happy that something is being done on their cases."

Kansas City families are hoping the cards will bring more attention to their loved ones.

"I'm all for it," said Jim Kelly, son of homicide victim James B. Kelly. "I applaud their efforts in continuing to try to solve the case."

Kansas City chose 52 unsolved homicides or missing person cases they thought could be solved with extra publicity. The Greater Kansas City Crimestoppers raised about $4,000, enough to buy 3,342 decks of cards from Blue Springs manufacturer Gemaco.

The cases range from one in 1983 to one from last year. Each case was randomly assigned to a card, although the 10 missing persons cases are together sequentially in the suit of hearts.

The cards contain pictures of victims, except for the oldest case, the 1983 murder of 16-year-old Terri Allen. Seven cards have two photos, representing double murders.

One card, the king of spades, shows the faces of Pierre Moreau, Viola Sawyer and Jamal Moore, victims of a May 2003 triple homicide in Kansas City.

Each card has a summary of the crime, including the date and address. Police hope the information will stir memories or prompt inmates to want to help. The cards also note that anyone reporting a crime to the TIPS Hotline could receive a cash reward.

Detective Ray Staley said many killings noted on the cards occurred in front of witnesses.

"We chose ones we thought could generate leads," he said. "We know people saw these things happen. Hopefully it will prompt someone to say something."

Information from: The Kansas City Star, http://www.kcstar.com

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