Decks of playing cards feature Wisconsin cold cases, but effort has failed to sparks new leads

  • Updated: July 23, 2013 - 3:05 PM

MADISON, Wis. — State investigators were hoping to spark crime-fighting leads by handing out playing cards of more than 100 unsolved homicide and missing-persons cases. But two years later, the effort hasn't resulted in a single arrest.

Homicide officials are trying to come up with more ideas to help move cold cases forward, the Press-Gazette Media reported (http://gbpg.net/13XDOov ). But relatives of Wisconsin homicide victims hope the playing-card idea continues, saying the plan has worked in other states.

The decks were funded with $10,500 in private donations and public money. Two versions of the decks were made, each summarizing 52 cases, and 1,000 decks were handed out at jails and prisons where inmates use them to pass the time.

The program began with high hopes, after the same idea paid off in other states. Florida, which originated the plan, has solved three homicides with its cold-case cards. In South Carolina, the cards have led to arrests or convictions in eight homicides.

But other states haven't had any success. Missouri police released about 5,000 decks a few years ago and has nothing to show for it, said Sgt. Erik Eidson of the Missouri State Highway Patrol.

Still, that hasn't dissuaded Wisconsin relatives of homicide victims.

Brittany Zimmermann, who died in 2008 when someone broke into her Madison apartment and stabbed her, is on the seven of hearts. Her mother, Jean Zimmermann, had high hopes that the cards would lead to a clue in her 21-year-old daughter's death.

"Any chance of someone seeing that (and) speaking up, finally, is fantastic," Zimmermann said. "We thought it was a great idea for all the cold cases — not just for Brittany but for everybody who is in our position."

Colleen Deveaux agrees. Her daughter, Dawn Mohn, was 41 when last seen leaving a Green Bay tavern at 2 a.m. in August 2000. Her photo and details are on the king of hearts.

"I say do more cards," Deveaux said. "When you have a missing family member, your life isn't complete until you at least get some news."

But the future of Wisconsin's plan is uncertain. Because the program hasn't led to any arrests it's not clear whether it will be continue to receive money to feature additional cold cases, said Jim Holmes, a special investigator with the state Department of Justice.

"It comes down to funding," Holmes said. "Am I hopeful? Yes. What's the likelihood? I don't know."

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