Sheriff's investigators hope decks of cards will help solve cold cases
By Sophia Kazmi and Jason Sweeney
Posted: 12/09/2008 05:36:21 PM PST
Updated: 12/10/2008 08:22:08 AM PST
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Tess Bowling, stepsister of 1983 murder victim Kellie Jean Poppleton, is among the friends and...
• Slide show: Thirteen cards in the deck
DUBLIN — Alameda County Sheriff's investigators are hoping an activity that helps kill time in jail will help bring killers to justice.
On Tuesday, the agency announced that it will distribute new playing cards to inmates at the county's two jails. But not just any old cards — these feature information about 13 unsolved crimes. Officials say they hope the victims' pictures and information will jog inmates' memories and generate new leads in the cases, said Sgt. Scott Dudek, who heads the Sheriff's Office cold case unit.
Each card bears the photo of a victim, a case summary and a number where people can leave information. There are four sets of each case in every deck.
About 30 relatives of
the victims were at Santa Rita Jail in Dublin for the announcement Tuesday.
"This is our way of telling the public that these cases have not been forgotten," Sheriff Greg Ahern told the attendees.
Dudek said his cold case unit is working on 70 cases.
"We picked the 13 cases we felt — based on previous witnesses' statements, DNA evidence present in some of them and other leads — that have the greatest possibility of solvability," Dudek said.
Dudek said inmates who see or play with the cards may come forward with information about the cases to "do the right thing," or perhaps to negotiate lighter sentences, or for rewards of $5,000 to $150,000 for information that leads to an arrest and conviction.
The cases include the killing of Jenny Lin, a 14-year-old Castro Valley girl found dead in her home in 1994; the 1989 disappearance of 13-year-old Ilene Misheloff in Dublin; and the shooting death of Mark Espinal, 19, in front of his home in unincorporated San Leandro in 2004. The oldest case in the deck is that of Gladys Fielding, 65, who was found dead in a pool of blood at her Castro Valley home on May 3, 1978. The most recent is that of Gary Jones, 37, who was shot and killed on June 28, 2007, at the ABE gas station on Mission and Lewelling boulevards in Ashland.
The Sheriff's Office has 2,300 decks that will be distributed at Santa Rita and Glenn Dyer jails. An additional 500 decks will be distributed at bars and other places where people play cards. No taxpayer money was used for this project, Dudek said. The cards for the inmates were paid for with money the jail receives from inmate commissary purchases. General public decks were paid for by the Jenny Lin Foundation.
Dudek said the family of Dana Ramm, 20, who was found strangled to death on Andrade Road in Sunol on Dec. 29, 1986, approached the cold case unit about the playing cards after hearing that other agencies around the country have started similar programs. Dudek said he thought it was a great way to reach a population that may have information or know people with information about serious crimes.
"We have 4,419 inmates assigned in the (Alameda County) jail system — that includes both state and federal inmates," he said. "The potential for information to go beyond Alameda County is huge."
On Tuesday, Sheriff's deputies led members of the media into a maximum-security area at Santa Rita, where inmates were playing with the new decks. Inmate Essley Green, 44, who said he was serving 15 years for robbery, said the cards were "entertaining" but that the possibility of an inmate providing information on any of the cases is "slim to none. ... They know I'm not saying anything that's going to get me killed," he said.
But family members of the victims were more hopeful.
"The potential payoff is very large. It certainly seems worth it," said Dublin resident Mike Misheloff, the father of Ilene Misheloff. "We've never given up hope — my wife and I and our family."
Randi Butterworth, the mother of Mark Espinal, said, "This is what I'm holding onto — a playing card in a deck of cards. It's the only thing I have now."
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement began its playing card program in 2005 at the Polk County jail, said Kristen Perezluha, agency spokeswoman. The program was well received and was implemented statewide.
Since then, three more sets of cards have been made and two cold case homicides have been solved based on information received from inmates who saw the cards.
San Diego County started a similar program last year, said San Diego County Sheriff's Deputy Adriana Uribe. Decks are sold for a $1.25 each and are the only cards the 5,000 inmates can buy at the county's seven jails. About half of the 10,000 decks San Diego County has ordered have sold.
Reach Sophia Kazmi at firstname.lastname@example.org or 925-847-2122. Reach Jason Sweeney at email@example.com or 510-293-2469.
Now that is a unique approach for tips. It also gets Marks name in the paper again.
BTW HI! I havent chatted with you in awhile.
Josh Underwood's mom
What a great idea so simple yet could have such an impact. And not only are the cards for the inmates but also for the general public how great.
Is there a way you can buy decks of cards that you could distribute I for one would be glad to donate to help buy the cards.
Sending hugs your way.
Jimmy's Mom Shirley
Thanks ladies, I appreciate your kind words. I'm going to pray that something comes of this approach. I was told that we could buy some cards, they only gave us one deck, I'm going to call the detective up and see.
Have a great evening.
When you find out about the cards let me know I am going to talk with my brother-in-law he is a honcho at the Mendocino Co. Jail I will ask about getting cards there. It couldn't hurt to get these cards into as many jails and or prisons as we can.
Randi I hope that these will help find the dogs who murdered Mark. My prayers are with you.
This sounded sort of strange at first, but the more I thought about it what a great idea. You need his face out there for people to see.
I haven't forgotten about the letter to America's Most Wanted, I am working on it. I've been having some computer problems, but I think I've worked them out. I will get you a rough draft soon.
My thoughts and prayers are with you.
I hope this program will help...the smallest lead could turn into something and that is sometimes all we have is hope...This article made me think of something...between them making these cards and being told there wasn't any air time for Mark's case...Why doesn't the judicial system have to spend equal amounts of money on the prisoner and the victims/family...for every dollar they spend keeping these animals alive and defending them they should make available to the victims family...then they could use the money for cases such as Marks to "buy airtime" or other methods to solve these cases or perhaps instead of these ridiculous reality shows of wife swapping, etc. maybe they could have more shows with these cases and at the end of every show keep showing the cold cases....dream world I live in I know..we can't even get the same rights when it comes to the injustice system let alone get them to spend money on us...I was told by our DA that we would have to "buy" the transcripts from Lisa's prelim because the stenographers would frown upon him handing out "free copies" Can you believe it? They are making money off Lisa's murder by selling the transcripts!!!!Where does that money go...I wouldn't care if they used it to help assist with cases like your sons but for some reason I don't think that is the case....How did the car thing turn out??
WHAT? Are you KIDDING ME? You cannot get a transcript for FREE? WTF is wrong with this picture? What state are you in?
Joshua U's mom/soulfriend
Laura & AV
WE WERE ALSO TOLD WE WOULD HAVE TO BUY THE TRANSCRIPT, BUT I GOT THE DA TO GIVE US A COPY
OF THE PRE TRAIL HEARINGS.They say we would have to pay for the trail transcript,Thank God our paper
put everthing that was said in the paper.They
did a great job.For us it was more in the pretrail
than at trail. Bobbie Billy Lee's mom
I would also have to pay for the trial transcripts here in CA. And they are very, very expensive I paid I think it was $200 for just a deposition from Jim's ex-wife when he was fighting for custody of his daughter. I don't even want to think about how much it would cost to get the trial transcripts although I would really like to have them.
Well, I wish the system would listen to you Laura and do exactly what you said. That would be really nice. I did speak to the detective on Mark's case and he said that they don't have any of the cards for sale at this time. I'll definitely let you all know when they make some more.
So hard to believe that Christmas is next Thursday, how did it get here so fast. I wasn't even paying it any mind, and actually, aren't doing it now. We don't have a tree up, my daughter wants one though. No lights around the house, no decorations, nada.
My Angel will be 24 in heaven on December 29. If you all get a chance, please stop by and light a candle for him. I love and miss Mark so much, just as you all love and miss your children. I'll never forget the day Mark was born, such a precious little boy. I always wonder how he would be if he was here. I think that he would have a great job and be a wonderful dad to his son. If only things were different.
I wish you all a Merry Christmas. I wish you a day filled with beautiful memories of your children.
As for the car Laura, well, they fixed the thermastat and now my daughter says it doesn't run right. My husband took is back and they said they would help us out in any way. She's been driving it and now she just got home and told me it's acting up, but she's giving it the benefit of the doubt. We'll see, that's another story.
Take care. Love, Randi
Randi... We could only dream that our "ideas" could someday happen..I missed you last night hopefully I can catch up with you this weekend and find out more about the car saga..lol..As far as the transcripts we are in Pennsylvania and in other parts of the state they were given to the families...my advocate thinks that the DA has not encountered a mother like me before or not too many if at that. Well he better prepare himself because I am just getting started...We will be reviewing the transcripts after the first of the year and if I have to pay one penny for any part of them there will be some people contacted I can guarantee that.
Last night I finished posting to topix pages in news papers for cities and towns with a name starting with an A. I check to see how many views we have had on the video last night it was 87 this morning it is 104. I will continue to post the message don't know if it will help but it can't hurt.
Love and Hugs