State Senator Hugh T. Farley (R, C - Schenectady) joined New York State Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno and families of missing victims and members of the law enforcement community to announce an innovative program that seeks new leads concerning missing persons and unsolved homicides. Information regarding these crimes will be included on decks of playing cards that will be distributed to local county jails throughout New York State.
The Lyalls, whose daughter, Suzanne, has been missing since 1998, founded the Center for HOPE to assist other families and to advance the cause of missing and unidentified persons. The "cold case" playing cards – featuring photographs and information on individuals who are missing or homicide victims who remain unidentified – are being provided to 57 jails and prisons as part of a pilot project through the Center for HOPE.
"Inmates have a lot of time on their hands, and they are in a unique position to know, see and hear things that may not reach the eyes and ears of law enforcement," Mr. Lyall said. "Mary and I are hopeful that this initiative will solve crimes, and bring a measure of peace and hope to families praying for the safe return of a loved one or answers to an unsolved homicide".
The intent of the program is to jog the memory, or stir the conscience, of jail inmates who may have personal knowledge or possibly heard a rumor about a missing person or unidentified homicide victim. This is modeled on a similar program introduced in Florida that resulted in solving several homicides and new leads on numerous "cold case" investigations.
Through this initiative, the cards will be provided to inmates through funding secured by Senator Bruno that will cover the cost of 7,200 decks. The New York State Sheriffs’ Association will offer rewards for tips that pan out, and the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services will provide a toll-free tip line. The program is being implemented in partnership with James Murphy, the Saratoga County District Attorney and president of the New York State District Attorneys Association.
"Doug and Mary Lyall have come up with a great idea for New York," said Mike Amato, Montgomery County Sheriff and President of the New York State Sheriffs’ Association. Montomgery County is also in Senator Farley’s Senatorial District. "We know with limited funding so far that the program will start modestly, but we hope that this will be a statewide program that all jails can help out with."
Sheriff Jack York, Livingston County Sheriff and Chairman of the Sheriffs’ Association Executive Committee, said that the playing card program "might just help law enforcement agencies to solve a case of a missing person or an unsolved homicide. Any help to solve these cases would be a godsend to law enforcement, and of course to the victim’s family."
The Center for HOPE will begin sending out the special playing decks in the coming weeks.