Project Cold Case –  2016 State of the Organization

As I reflect back on the first year of Project Cold Case, Inc.’s existence I contemplate how we got here and where we are heading. I think about who we’ve already helped, who we will help moving forward, how we can reach more people and what else we can do to help solve cold cases.
While this blog is mostly dedicated to sharing the stories of unsolved homicide victims, I believe from time to time it is appropriate to give our readers and followers a more intimate look into Project Cold Case. A State of the Organization address if you will. But with this being the first post of its kind, where do we begin… I guess at the beginning.On October 10, 2009 my dad, Cliff Backmann, was shot and killed during an armed robbery. He was working a side job on a Saturday afternoon in Jacksonville, Florida. The extra money he was earning that day was to help with mounting bills due to his wife’s battle with stage four (metastasized) cancer. A long story short, an unknown suspect saw my dad alone in an office building and shot him, took his wallet and fled. My dad lived long enough to call 911 and give a brief description of his attacker before losing consciousness. In less than the time it took you to read that, a serious of events was set in motion that would lead to more questions than answers, a career change, more questions, fewer answers, a vision for a safer world, the start of a nonprofit organization and me typing this message.

In December 2014 I left my job as a victim advocate to start Project Cold Case with a simple mission of helping families of unsolved homicides. How we would do that would evolve with each unique case and family. In January 2015 we incorporated as a Florida nonprofit and began assembling a Board of Directors that would strengthen us where we were weak and push us to be the best organization possible. In March 2015 we launched our website, Facebook and Twitter pages. The obvious goal was to feature cold cases and then share them through social media. The results were mixed. Families of unsolved cases liked, commented and shared the stories we posted and helped promote Project Cold Case. Others were hesitant to acknowledge that there were so many unsolved homicides and chose a more “head in the sand” approach. If we ignore it, it’s not real. And worse yet was the “it can’t happen to me, so why should I care” contingent. The greatest struggle has always been getting those unaffected to care. We have the support of those that have experienced the tragedy of an unsolved homicide in their family, but we need the support of the rest of society to make the biggest difference.

So what have we accomplished in the first year? Well, we highlighted almost 40 unsolved homicides in our Cold Case Spotlight feature. We averaged over 120 new Facebook followers each month. We had over 30,000 visitors to our website (since going live in March). We were featured in multiple news stories. And those unaffected people we talked about, well they started to take notice and support us. Our first official fundraiser was held last weekend and included a majority of invitees that had not lost a loved one to an unsolved homicide and they responded with a great amount of support. Check out our Events page to see what businesses and individuals stepped up to help us.

So where are we heading? Well, we will continue to feature unsolved homicides in our Cold Case Spotlight feature on our blog and through social media. We are steadfast in our belief that ALL unsolved victims deserve to be remembered and that their loved ones know that people still care. We are also convinced, more than ever, that sharing these cases through social media will result in solving some of these cases. But our biggest goal for 2016 is to develop a database of unsolved homicides that will allow individuals to search cases in their area or that they might have information about. This database is a huge undertaking and while it will start in Jacksonville, Florida, it will expand throughout the state and beyond, as time, finances and resources permit.

So why is Project Cold Case important? Because it is already making a difference. From the appreciation of victims’ families to collaborations with law enforcement, law makers and other victim serving groups, Project Cold Case is experiencing a groundswell of support, recognition and attention. Those things are key to solving murders and creating safer communities. In fact, in recent weeks we have received correspondence from private investigators considering pro bono services for our families. We heard from a group that provides volunteer sonar experts to search lakes and rivers for submerged cars that will potentially reveal missing persons or dumped victims. And just last week we received communication from an incarcerated individual claiming to have information on multiple unsolved murders in central Florida. As we work to confirm details and verify (through law enforcement) the validity of this information we ask that each of you remember how important our goals are. We are always just one ‘like’, one comment, one mention, one retweet, one share or one connection away from justice for a deserving family.

Thanks to all that support Project Cold Case through donations, volunteering, sharing posts and spreading the word about our cause. With you and your continued support we will make a difference.

Ryan Backmann
Founder / Executive Director
Project Cold Case, Inc.