Indiana News

2 Years Later, Cold Case Cards Produce Thousands of Tips, No Arrests


(photo courtesy Indiana Department of Corrections)

Two years after Indiana put more than 100 unsolved murders on playing cards, none of those cases has been solved. But officials say the program has still been a success.

Indiana is one of several states to issue decks of cards patterned after the deck the Army used in 2003 in the hunt for officials of Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq. Indiana published two decks in 2010, covering 97 "cold case" murders and seven missing-persons cases believed to involve foul play.

Indiana prison spokesman Doug Garrison says the decks haven't produced any arrests. But he says they've fulfilled their main purpose by generating thousands of new leads to enable investigators to rekindle dormant investigations.

And Garrison says the cards are a way to remind victims' families that authorities haven't forgotten about them.

The cards' circulation is limited to law enforcement and prisons, where they're the only cards available in the commissary. Garrison says the people most likely to have information about an unsolved crime are people behind bars for something else.

Each card includes a brief summary of the case and a photo of the victim.

More than half the victims in the two decks are from Marion County, including four cards devoted to the notorious Burger Chef murders of 1978. But the cards include cases from 28 other Indiana counties, dating back as far as the 1971 shooting death of John Terhorst near Eagle Village in Boone County.

Officially, one of the 104 cases was solved before the decks were ever issued. Karen Jo Smith disappeared from her Indianapolis home in 2000. Her ex-husband was convicted of her murder in 2004. But Smith's body has never been found, and the plea for tips on finding her remains is the 10 of spades in the second cold-case deck.


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