Playing cards with faces and stories of unsolved victims being used to crack cold cases in Florida


Law enforcement partners across Florida are renewing a tool to solve cold case homicides.

Decks of playing cards that contain the faces and stories of unsolved homicide victims and their cases will be distributed to correctional facilities around the state.

“We believe that within our correctional facilities, there are people who hold crucial information,” Sheriff Bill Leeper, the President of the Florida Sheriffs Association said.

Attorney General Ashley Moody and the Florida Association of Crime Stoppers say they implemented a similar initiative around 15 years ago, which led to a homicide being solved.

“That was solved because there was the gentleman, who is now serving a life sentence, was in the jail bragging about how he tricked the cops,” Frank Brunner, the President of the Florida Association of Crime Stoppers said.

Law enforcement partners say thousands of decks of cards will be distributed across dozens of correctional facilities around the state.

The Florida Association of Crime Stoppers says the cards will also be displayed in digital form throughout nearly 150 probation offices across the state.

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Investigators are hoping to reach people who know or hear something, and could have a crucial piece of information that could crack some of these cases open.

The cards will feature several cases out of Tampa Bay.

Last summer, Yitzian Torres Garcia, 7, was shot and killed while he was doing fireworks with his grandfather along the Courtney Campbell Causeway.

“Sometimes we remember where he was walking, he was playing, he was asking for something,” Yitzian’s grandfather Juan Carlos Hernandez said. “And right now, we don’t, we don’t even hear that voice.”

No arrests have been made in connection with his death.

Hernandez says he drives past his grandson’s memorial along the Courtney Campbell Causeway several times a week, and he still yearns for justice.

“My heart is there, so I have to be there every time when I can,” Hernandez said.

In 2022, Willie Carraway, 45, was shot and killed on N. Nebraska Ave. in Tampa.

“He was just an innocent bystander,” Willie Carraway’s wife Niki Carraway said. “A group of people chose to use guns to solve their problems. And then he lost his life because of it.”

Carraway said her husband was a hardworking father, who had a great personality and loved having fun.

In Pasco County, James William Earl, 32, was found shot and killed in the driveway of his home in Spring Hill in 2019.

“He was my first born,” William’s mother, Tina Johnson North said. “I had him when I was 18 years old. He was the light of my life. And he served in the military.”

READ: Accused Tampa ‘madame’ set for bond hearing in human trafficking case

North is hopeful that this initiative will encourage someone to come forward and speak up to solve her son’s case.

“Someone knows something, and they need to come forward,” North said.

Law enforcement partners hope that these cards spread quickly, and they get into the right hands.

Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister says even the smallest pieces of information can help solve a case.

The Florida Association of Crime Stoppers also highlights the growing cash rewards that are on the table in exchange for information leading to arrests in these cases.

“It could be revenge,” Chronister said. “It could be a relationship has soured. It could be we’re not as close as we used to be. And it could come down to the simple economics.”

Although these families will never get their loved ones back, they say justice will help bring them closure.

“It would give me, a piece of closure,” Carraway said. “I don’t think the pain will ever go away, but it will help to know that his case is solved.”

Law enforcement partners say these cards will have information about how people can report tips anonymously and a reward that’s being offered.

Tips that lead to an arrest are eligible for a cash reward of up to $9,500. Tipsters will remain anonymous.

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