A Criminal Flush: Playing Cards and Solving Cases
Brittan Mitchell, Staff Researcher

What do cold cases, war tactics, and poker have in common? A Florida community based group is hoping that the commonality, a deck of cards, will be the newest resource for local law enforcement leads.

In the summer of 2005, a Florida Crime Stoppers Group creatively 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, these Polk County cards focused on homicide victims. Crime Stoppers distributed these cold case decks to approximately 2500 inmates with the hope of generating new leads. The cards were prioritized by the date of the crime. The oldest unsolved cases, dating back to the 1970’s, were the Aces. This group had high expectations for these cards based on their previous success with card decks featuring fugitives.

The 3 of Spades had a picture of Thomas Wayne Grammer, a 37-year old male. The card also included the following brief description of the key facts of his murder (copied verbatim from the card): An inmate in a Polk County Jail recognized Grammer’s picture, and he provided investigators with a name. This name allowed the investigators to open the case, to re–question a witness, to generate new leads, and to apprehend two male suspects. Based on this one lead, two men have been indicted for a murder committed in 2004. The Polk County Cold Case Assessment team is currently following up on two other leads on two separate cold cases. Polk County also has 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, our national government has utilized playing card strategies since the Civil War. The following list provides some examples of these war-time efforts: Other crime-oriented card decks are available for purchase through various playing card establishments. Examples include the following: Resources:
1. Susan Casper, Video Clip, News, Feb. 9, 2006.
2. Wendy Cole and Sarah Sturmon Dale, Card-Carrying Civilians, Time International, May 12, 2003, at 10.
3. Gabrielle Finley, One Card Two Arrests: Card Heats Up Cold Case, The Ledger, Feb. 10, 2006.
4. Great USA Flags (last visited March 7, 2006).
5. Most-Wanted Iraqi Playing Cards,
Wikipedia (last visited Mar. 7, 2006).
6. Cheryl N. Schmidt, Cards Crack Cold Case, (last visited Mar. 7, 2006).
7. Tom Zucco, Troops Dealt an Old Tool, The St. Petersburg Times, Apr. 12, 2003.