Project: Cold Case FAQs
Is Project: Cold Case, Inc. a private investigation firm?
No. We do not investigate these cases. We publicize them and offer advocacy services to the victims’ families.
How many cases has Project: Cold Case helped solve?
Arrests have been made in eleven cases submitted to us and featured on our website. Remember, though, that we are not an investigative firm and we do not collect tips on these cases, but instead ask those with information to provide it directly to law enforcement or anonymous tip lines like Crime Stoppers. We wouldn’t necessarily know if our spotlights or social media posts directly resulted in those arrests. We truly believe anytime an unsolved case is back in the public eye that it is a good thing. We also know that we have helped numerous families by publicizing their loved ones case and generating renewed interest by local media and the public. To read more about the cases we have spotlighted where an arrest was made click here.
How did Project: Cold Case, Inc. get started?
Project: Cold Case was created by Ryan Backmann in Jacksonville, Florida, five and a half years after his dad was shot in the back and killed while vacuuming drywall dust at a construction site. With no witnesses or evidence, the case quickly went cold. One of the toughest days for Ryan after the murder was when detectives told him that they had exhausted all leads and were suspending the case. No one would be looking into his dad’s case file again unless someone came forward with new information. Unfortunately, the local sheriff’s office did not have the time, money, or manpower to list their cold cases online and that, Ryan believed, made it extremely unlikely that anyone would know to come forward if they did have information on the case.
Does Project: Cold Case help families of missing persons?
Only in situations where the missing person is believed by both law enforcement and the family to have been murdered. There are many wonderful resources for missing people, and we don’t want to duplicate any of their work.
If you have a missing persons case, reach out to any of the following non-profit organizations:
- The Charley Project
- NamUs (National Missing and Unidentified Persons System)
- National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
- Community United Effort
What type of cases are you focused on?
Project Cold Case is focused on helping with unsolved criminal homicides. Criminal homicides are classified as crimes like murder, manslaughter and vehicular homicide (hit and runs). Homicide is defined as “the killing of one human being by another,” but not all homicides are crimes (i.e. self defense, excusable, or justifiable). We will accept missing persons cases where foul play is suspected and the family believes their loved one has been murdered.
What rights does the family of an unsolved homicide victim have?
It ultimately depends on the state where the crime happened. According to the National Center for Victims of Crime, all sates and the federal government have passed some sort of laws to establish a set of victims’ rights. They vary, though, and in some states, victims’ rights apply only to victims of felonies, while other states also grant legal rights to victims of misdemeanors. Some states allow a family member of a homicide victim to exercise these rights on behalf of the victims. In Florida (where Project Cold Case is based) you can find the rights of victims, including the next of kin of homicide victims, in Florida Statutes Title XLVII Chapter 960.
What is crime victim compensation and am I eligible?
Crime victim compensation varies by state, but in Florida (where Project Cold Case is based) you may be eligible for assistance. You should have been offered help filling out an application at the time of the crime as the application must be filed within one year after the crime date or within two years if good cause is shown for the filing delay. Since the families we help are at least one year away from crime date, it is our hope that victim advocates and service providers have already helped you submit the application. If not, and it is still within the two crime date window, we may be able to help you apply for assistance, specifically grief counseling. For more information please take a look at this brochure provided by Bureau of Victim Compensation through the Florida Office of the Attorney General.
How do you get information for the database?
Through public records requests to law enforcement agencies. We also have a Case Submission page for family members that want to submit their loved ones’ case. Due to limited funding, the large number of unsolved homicides and the many law enforcement agencies in the state and country, we rely on families or potential witnesses to provide case information while we work to collect a complete package from law enforcement. Because Project Cold Case was started in Jacksonville, Florida, we began our records request with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office and plan to expand to each county throughout Florida before moving on to other states.
I am a student with an interest in criminal justice and/or cold case homicides. Are there any intern opportunities available with Project: Cold Case?
We plan to offer an internship program in the future that provides educational credits to college students. In the meantime, we have unpaid intern positions available for those that want to help this cause and gain valuable criminal justice, victim advocacy, administrative and non-profit experience. If you would like the opportunity to intern with us, please submit your contact information through our Volunteer/Intern Application on our Get Involved page.
How can I help Project: Cold Case?
The easiest and biggest way to help us is to share our pages, victims and spotlights through social media. We don’t need a million people to see our posts, just one – the right one. You never know who might see the information we are publicizing and it might just be the person that can solve the case. For other ways to help, please visit our Get Involved page for information on donating money, goods, services, as well as volunteering with our organization.
Are donations to Project: Cold Case tax deductible?
Yes! Project Cold Case, Inc. is recognized by the IRS as a Public Charity and exempt from federal income tax under Internal Revenue Code (IRC) Section 501(c)(3). Donors can deduct contributions under IRC Section 170. A copy of Project Cold Case’s tax-exempt IRS letter is available upon request.
How will my donation be used?
Donations will be used for projects or events that help families of unsolved homicides, victims, administrative costs, or salaries. Until we are able to secure grants, donations will help with some initial expenses that the organization is in need of (i.e. tax exempt status fees, public records costs, database development, etc.).
Can my loved one’s case be added to your database?
Yes, as long as your loved one’s case is over one year old and is a criminal homicide. Visit our Case Submission page to provide us with the information we need to add them to our system. Please note that we must verify all cases through the law enforcement agency that investigated them. Depending on how many cases we have received and how quickly law enforcement confirms the case, it may take several weeks to get them online. Our database is currently being developed to provide easy and efficient searching and accessibility. We hope to have the database online very soon. Submissions can be made now even though the database is not yet live.
How long ago did the homicide have to occur to be eligible for inclusion?
Any unsolved homicide one year old or older can be submitted. We realize that a year can seem like a really long time for families that have just suffered this type of loss. We also understand that open or active investigations may take longer, due to processing evidence or interviewing witnesses. Typically a case is not considered “cold” by law enforcement until all evidence has been processed by a crime lab and all tips and leads exhausted. That amount of time can differ greatly from case to case, but after one year we will add the victim to our Faces of Unsolved Homicide page and add them to our Cold Case Spotlight list.
What if officials ruled the case a suicide or undetermined, but I believe it was homicide?
Because we are not an investigation firm, our resources are extremely limited when it comes to these type cases. Sometimes family members have a hard time accepting that their loved one could hurt themselves or that the incident was an accident. And sometimes officials get it wrong or legitimately don’t know. If you have one of these cases, unfortunately, there isn’t much we can do. We just don’t have the resources or expertise in that area. We would suggest googling other resources, but be very cautious about being taken advantage of. You are welcome to contact us about advice or suggestions regarding such cases.
Law enforcement knows who killed my loved one, but won’t make the arrest. How can I get justice?
One of the hardest things for the family of an unsolved homicide victim is knowing that police know who did it but can’t make an arrest. Because of the laws that govern our criminal justice system, police and prosecutors only get one chance to convict the perpetrator. If they rush to make an arrest before getting all witnesses and evidence, they risk an acquittal at trial and can never prosecute that person again, no matter what evidence comes out after the trial. We at Project Cold Case understand and respect law enforcement’s stance early on in these investigations. However, after years and years of no new evidence coming forward, we believe and advocate for police, prosecutors and families sitting down together to discuss the potential benefits and downfalls of making an arrest and pursuing a conviction. If your family is in this position, please Contact Us to see what we can do to help. Although we have no jurisdiction, and only the State Attorney or District Attorney for the judicial district where the homicide occurred can decide whether or not to prosecute, we are happy to make phone calls and write letters on behalf of families that have waited years for the arrest and prosecution of a known killer.
I haven‘t heard from law enforcement in a long time and have no idea what’s going on in my case. Who should I call?
Our experience has taught us that homicide detectives tend not to contact victims’ families unless they need information or are calling to say they have made an arrest. Once notification has been made about the death, their focus is on the investigation with little time to keep family members up to date on case progress. This is particularly true when the situation is a cold case that isn’t being actively investigated. We recommend that you start and keep a positive and professional relationship with the detective investigating your loved one’s case. Don’t be afraid to reach out to the detective. Rarely, if ever, will a homicide detective call you to just check in. Find the balance between calling every day and never calling. If you have specific needs and questions and feel that your detective is ignoring you, call and ask to speak to his supervisor. Legitimate concerns should be taken up the proper chain of command. You can also Contact Us and we will call or write a letter or both asking the investigating officer or agency to contact you for a meeting.
I don’t know anyone that has ever been the victim of a homicide. Why should I care?
Because the man that shot the gas station attendant across town the other day could be standing behind your wife at the bank. Because the person that got away with murder ten years ago lives next to your child’s bus stop. Because you can make this world a better place just by caring.
Aren’t all homicide victims drug dealers or gang members anyway?
No. And even if the victim was, does their family deserve to suffer? Does the rival drug dealer or gang member deserve to go free? A quick internet search of homicide victims will reveal the eight-year old girl abducted and killed, the elderly man beaten in his home, the young mother hit by a stray bullet, the businessman robbed in the parking lot. Every victim had a story, a family, people that loved them, and they each deserve justice.
I have information on a homicide. How can I report a tip?
There are multiple ways to report a tip and help get a killer off our streets. If you are willing to testify, call the law enforcement agency investigating the case and ask for the homicide department and the detective working that case. If you prefer to remain anonymous, call the Crime Stoppers hotline in your area.
Is there a reward for information on any of these unsolved homicides?
Project Cold Case does not pay out rewards. However, some homicide cases do have rewards associated with them. Call your local police department, Crime Stoppers, or victim serving organization to get information on rewards. Remember that some rewards are offered after an arrest and some are only after an arrest with a conviction. Some are eligible even if you remain anonymous and some will require you to testify. We encourage you to report any and all information because it is the right thing to do and these victims and their families deserve justice.
Can I remain anonymous if I decide to call in a tip?
Tips may be submitted anonymously through both Crime Stoppers and your local law enforcement agency. However, a case may have a better chance of successful prosecution if you are willing to reveal your identity and testify.