U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

A Criminal Flush: Playing Cards and Solving Cases

NCJ Number
Date Published
April 2006
2 pages
This article describes an investigative technique for obtaining new leads on cold cases.
In 2005, a Florida Crime Stoppers Group designed a deck of cards that highlighted local cold cases. These cases were similar to the ‘Iraqi most-wanted playing cards’ distributed during Gulf War II to U.S. soldiers; however, the Polk County cards focused on homicide victims. Crime Stoppers distributed the cold case decks to approximately 2,500 inmates with the hope of generating new leads on cold cases. The cards were prioritized by the date of the crime. The oldest unsolved cases, dating back to the 1970s, were the Aces. This group had high expectations for these cards based on their previous success with card decks featuring fugitives. One of the cards, the 3 of Spades, pictured Thomas Wayne Grammer, a 37-year old male and included a brief description of the key facts of his murder. An inmate in a Polk County Jail recognized Grammer’s picture, and provided investigators with a suspect’s name. The lead allowed the investigators to reopen the case. Investigators reinterviewed a witness which generated new leads, and led to the apprehension of two male suspects. Based on this one lead, two men were indicted for a murder committed in 2004. The Polk County Cold Case Assessment team is currently following up other leads on two separate cold cases. Polk County also plans to reissue a new deck of playing cards which will include some missing persons case files. The county uses court fines from criminal cases to fund the creation and distribution of these playing decks. Although Florida’s Polk County might be the first attempt by a local government to utilize playing cards as a criminal identification tool, the Federal government has utilized playing card strategies since the Civil War. References

Date Published: April 1, 2006