Kansas detectives hope playing cards help solve dozens of cold cases

The Kansas Department of Corrections hopes these playing cards will help produce tips in dozens of cold cases around the state.
Updated: Apr. 25, 2022 at 5:00 AM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Cold cases are tough and frustrating. Lt. Jeff Gilmore with the Wichita Police Department says a case goes cold when they have exhausted all leads, but he says someone knows something.

“They know exactly who did it. They know what’s going on, but they refuse to cooperate with us,” says Gilmore.

A deck of playing cards – each including information about an unsolved crime in Kansas – will soon be distributed in state prisons and county jails across the state, with hopes of garnering new leads from inmates.

One case in this new deck of cards hits Wichita police particularly hard. Arthur Goebel is the father of one of their own, a retired police officer. She’s speaking out about his murder for the first time, sharing her hope that this cold case card deck will renew efforts to find the person who killed her dad.

“Within Kansas correctional facilities and jails, we have segments of our population who want to do something good, perhaps atone for past mistakes, and they may have information about unsolved cases. Our hope is that we receive actionable intelligence that leads to solving cases,” said Kansas Secretary of Corrections Jeff Zmuda.

Each card in the deck includes brief information about an unsolved crime along with a phone number for anyone with information to call 1-800-KS-CRIME. These cards highlight case details in the hope that someone familiar with a case will come forward with information leading to its resolution.

The Cold Case Playing Cards will replace current decks of standard playing cards available in prisons and county jails.

Gilmore and other law enforcement partners served on the steering committee for this project, along with Eyewitness News anchor Natalie Davis; representatives from victim services, facility-based programs, and private industry; and families whose lives have been impacted by homicide.

At least 30 other states are using this unique approach, including Connecticut, which is now on its fifth edition.

Supervisory Assistant State’s Attorney John Fahey says the cards have resulted in hundreds of leads in Connecticut.

“Obviously not every tip is legitimate, and not every tip renders fruit in terms of solving a case,” he said.

The Connecticut State Department of Corrections says 20 cases have been solved through this program.

“It may not always solve a case for us - that information, but it can give us an investigative lead and give us another direction to go when we’ve exhausted all the leads on a case,” said Gilmore.

“Our agency and our state’s criminal justice community have a commitment to the victims of crimes,” said Kansas Secretary of Corrections Jeff Zmuda. “Our staff members see the unresolved pain experienced by the many families we work with. Hearing the responses from surviving family members when notified that their loved one’s case has been selected for the deck has been powerful and humbling. These families have waited a long time for answers, and this brings some hope.”

“Every call or tip that is shared with law enforcement will be vetted by investigators assigned to the case,” said KBI Director Kirk Thompson. “No matter how small, each tip has the potential of being the missing piece of information needed to finally provide justice to crime victims and their families.”

Through a submissions process that began in December 2021, local law enforcement from across Kansas provided 81 cases to be highlighted. A selection committee with representatives from KDOC, KBI, the Kansas Attorney General’s Office and local law enforcement prioritized 59 cases to highlight on the first deck of 52 cards.

The oldest case is from 1976 and the most recent case is from 2020.

“For many of these cases even after years of investigative work has occurred, questions still remain that need answers before a perpetrator can be held accountable,” Director Thompson said. “It’s our hope that by distributing this deck more attention is drawn to these cases, and that someone comes forward with details that will move us one step closer to providing justice.”

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