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April 26, 2013

Third edition of Indiana Department of Correction ‘Cold Case’ playing cards includes 5 Wabash Valley cases

INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana state prison officials are using customized playing cards for a deadly serious purpose: To help unlock the mysteries of unsolved murders and persons gone missing.

On Tuesday, the Indiana Department of Correction released the third edition of the “Indiana Cold Case Homicides Playing Cards” — a deck of cards that profile 52 unsolved cases that have gone cold for lack of evidence or leads.

Five people — dead or missing — from the Wabash Valley are featured among the 52 unsolved cases. Three of the cases involve Vigo County residents. One card features a 1997 Clay County homicide, and another card features a 79-year-old woman missing from Greene County since 1996.

The “cold case” cards have a targeted audience. The 10,000 decks printed with each edition are available for purchase only by inmates in the state’s 25 prison facilities.

Doug Garrison, the DOC spokesman, said putting the cards in the hands of offenders make sense. “With cold cases, you want to put the names and faces of victims in the hands of anyone who might have a reason to know something about the case, and that includes offenders.”

The playing card project is done in partnership with the Indiana State Police and law enforcement from around the state who help the DOC decide who to profile on the cards. Each card includes a photo of the victim and brief information about where they were last seen.

Among the youngest victims included in the current edition is Blake Discus of Johnson County, who, at age 10, was found stabbed to death with his mother in their Franklin County, Ind., home. One of the oldest victims on a card: Eva Hale of Greene County, who disappeared in September 1996 from a cemetery after visiting her brother’s grave. She was 79.

One the oldest cases in this year’s edition is that of Pamela Milam, a 19-year-old college student found in the trunk of her car near the Indiana State University campus in Terre Haute.

It may seem like an insensitive way to solve a crime, but Garrison said the families of the victims on the cards have been supportive and grateful that their loved ones haven’t been forgotten.

“These cases have gone unsolved for so long, it feels like end of the road. But as long as law enforcement continues to pay attention to these victims, then there’s hope.”

The first edition of the cold-case cards came out in 2008. They’ve yet to result in a solved case, Garrison said. But they have generated some valuable leads, he said.

The hope is that the information on the cards will jar an inmate’s memory about a case or provide a clue that, when combined with other information, would provide the break investigators need to solve the case, Garrison said.

The cards aren’t for public sale, but the images of each card can be found online at the Department of Correction website; the link is www.in.gov/idoc/2826.htm

The DOC is also asking anyone who has information about any case in the deck, or any other cold case, to contact the Indiana Indiana State Police Hotline at 800-453-4756.

Maureen Hayden is the Indiana Statehouse bureau chief for CNHI, the parent company of the Tribune-Star. She can be reached at maureen.hayden@indiana

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