Seward: Initiative May Help Solve Local Crime

James L. Seward

May 28, 2008

State Senator James L. Seward (R-C-I/Oneonta) was in Greene County today to announce an innovative program that may help locate missing persons and solve "cold" homicide cases. Seward was joined by Greene County Sheriff Gregory Seeley and Catskill Police Chief David Darling and a representative of the family of Audrey Herron, missing since 2002.

Seward said that local county jails will begin using decks of playing cards for inmates that include information about missing person. 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.

"This is about solving crimes and providing closure for families and loved ones of those who have been missing," Seward said. "The initiative we’re discussing today will provide incarcerated criminals with information about missing persons right on playing cards, which may produce credible information or leads that will help solve these crimes."

"I am proud to have Senator Seward here today at the Greene County Sheriff’s Office to promote these playing cards and the Center for Hope," said Sheriff Greg Seeley. "If these cards can help in cracking even one case, they are worth their weight in gold for the closure that will be provided to family and friends of victims.

"Distributing these playing cards in county jails is like interviewing every single inmate for new leads. By dispensing these playing cards we are literally putting unsolved cases in the hands of those who we think can provide critical information to crack investigations," said Sheriff Greg Seeley. "Criminals hang out with other criminals, they know each others’ habits and they often share the same contacts. Perhaps more importantly, incarcerated criminals are often more than willing to give up the names of other criminals to benefit themselves."

The program originated with Doug and Mary Lyall, whose daughter, Suzanne, has been missing since 1998. The Lyalls founded the Center for HOPE to assist other families and to advance the cause of missing and unidentified persons.

The intent of the program is to jog the memories and stir the consciences of jail inmates who may have personal knowledge or possibly heard a rumor about a missing person or unidentified homicide victim. The initiative is modeled on a similar program introduced in Florida that resulted in solving several homicides and new leads on numerous "cold case" investigations.

Through the initiative, the cards will be provided to inmates through funding secured by the senate to cover the cost of 7,200 decks. The New York State Sheriffs’ Association will offer rewards for tips that are viable, and the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services will provide a toll-free tip line.

The Center for HOPE will begin sending out the special playing decks in the coming weeks.

The Center for HOPE will begin sending out the special playing decks in the coming weeks.