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CRACKING A COLD CASE: SWFL Crime Stoppers deals cold case playing cards to inmates

Decks going to southwest Florida jails
SWFL Cold case cards
Posted at 9:31 PM, Feb 26, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-28 13:33:06-05

LEE COUNTY, Fla. — Behind every face and every action, there's a name. The search for those names is where the journey begins.

Fox 4 senior reporter Kaitlin Knapp is on a mission to get to know the names we know, and perhaps find the ones we don't, along with the detectives working in the same communities you call home.

In Fox 4's new series called "Sunshine Crimes," we are doing things a little differently for this story. Instead of talking about one case, we're talking about 52, kind of.

Southwest Florida Crime Stoppers is hoping a deck of cards will lead to a crack in a cold case.

"Every single one of these cards, they have a story behind them," said Trish Routte with Southwest Florida Crime Stoppers.

However, it's not your normal deck of cards. The ones Routte is referring to shows a southwest Florida cold case, whether that's a missing person or murder. There are 52 cards in the special deck, made to go inside local jails.

Cold case cards SWFL

"All of those cases are solvable with just the right information," Routte said.

She hopes the information comes from someone playing with the deck.

The idea came from former Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigator Tommy Ray.

"They’re playing cards anyway, so it was his idea many years ago to take these cold cases, put them on the playing cards and put them in front of the inmates in hopes that they will start talking," Routte explained.

The first deck went inside Florida prisons in 2007, and the idea worked. Routte says an inmate in a Lake County prison had the deck with a card featuring the unsolved murder of Fort Myers man James Foote.

"They were playing cards and the guy's like, oh this guy, I killed this guy," she said.

The cards led to an arrest and conviction.

"This is proof that these cards make a difference," Routte said.

Southwest Florida Crime Stoppers made its own deck about six to seven years ago. Though they did not have luck, they are trying again.

A $7,000 grant came in from Season of Justice, a non-profit aimed at helping law enforcement agencies solve cold cases.

"We brought in some of the cases that we've done before and then we added in some new cases," Routte said about this year's deck.

Around 600 decks will go into local jails. If an inmate has a tip, there's a way they can report it anonymously.

"We're able to protect inmates because they have avenues in which they can contact us anonymously and provide that information," Routte said.

Routte says though they're inmates, they can still get the reward money and remain anonymous.

"We're hoping that chatter, by getting that conversation started whole they're playing cards is going to hopefully lead to at least one arrest," Routte said.

FDLE is expected to release another statewide deck in 2024, which will feature three or four local cases.

The deck will go to Florida prisons, with the hope someone knows something about one of those cards, and eventually bring a family answers and justice.