Project: Cold Case FAQs
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.
Will Project: Cold Case investigate my loved one’s case?
No. We do not investigate these cases.
We publicize them and offer advocacy services to the victims’ families.
Is Project: Cold Case a TV show?
No. We do not produce a television show.
We publicize cases and offer advocacy services to victims’ families.
We do, however, work with news outlets to promote awareness for cases.
What type of cases does Project: Cold Case focus 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 person cases where foul play is suspected as long as both law enforcement and the family believe the victim has been murdered.
Does Project: Cold Case help families of missing persons?
Project: Cold Case only accepts missing person cases if 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
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 do verify all cases. Depending on how many cases we have received and how quickly we can confirm the case, it may take several weeks to get them online.
How can I submit a case to Project: Cold Case?
Cases can be submitted by direct family members and law enforcement via our Case Submission forms.
It’s vitally important that we have contact information with the family. While friends, old neighbors, and concerned citizens are appreciated for caring for victims, our services are designed specifically for families. Families also have more information on the case than the general public and, more importantly, access to the law enforcement agencies.
How long ago did the homicide have to occur to be eligible for inclusion?
Project: Cold Case requires at least one calendar year to pass from the date of the incident without resolution to be included on our platform.
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.
What if officials ruled the case a suicide or undetermined, but I believe it was homicide?
Because we are not an investigation firm, there is nothing we can do in these situations. Our experience and resources are specific to working with families of unsolved homicides.
Unfortunately, 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. We recommend reaching out to Parents of Murdered Children Second Opinion Services for assistance in suspicious deaths that were not classified as a homicide.
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 to talk through options with 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 by calling the investigating agency and asking for the homicide unit. Ask if your loved one’s case is active, if so ask to speak to the detective assigned to the case. If the answer is no, as when the last time the case was reviewed and how to get it looked at again and brought up to current investigative standards. Remember, having a positive and professional relationship with the detective investigating your loved one’s case will get you a lot further in finding out information and answers. We recommend contacting law enforcement, at least, annually.
Rarely do homicide detectives 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 or her supervisor. Legitimate concerns should be taken up the proper chain of command.
You can also Contact Us and we will talk through strategies and options for getting the communication you deserve.
How do you get information for the database?
Our Cold Case Database has been populated through public records requests and case submissions.
We have worked diligently to record the unsolved cases throughout Florida and beyond. While our database is one of the most comprehensive regarding cold cases, it still has a long way to go. Our database currently features around 25,000 cases, while it’s estimated that the US has 270,000 unsolved cases since 1980.
Many agencies haven’t kept running records of these cases and each agency can have a different definition of what makes a case cold. It’s a challenge to gather all the information available.
I don’t know anyone that has ever been the victim of a homicide. Why should I care?
The person responsible for killing another person is clearly a dangerous individual. They could easily be standing behind your spouse at the bank, in line behind you at the grocery store, or living next to your child’s bus stop.
Cold cases are a public safety issue. Dangerous people continue to roam the world without being accountable for their actions. Solving cold cases will take these dangerous people off our streets and make the world a better, safer place.
Aren’t all homicide victims drug dealers or gang members anyway?
Crime doesn’t care about demographics or lifestyle. Look at the cases on our site – all ages, races, genders and locations are represented.
Even if every victim of murder was a drug dealer or gang member, does that mean they deserve to die at the hands of another person? Does their family deserve to suffer? Does the killer deserve to walk free? No, not at all.
Every victim has a story. A family. People that loved them. They all 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 the 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 payout rewards, nor can we guarantee your anonymity.
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.
Understand 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.
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 states 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 the 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-year 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 the Bureau of Victim Compensation through the Florida Office of the Attorney General.
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.
Salaries and administrative costs are currently covered by the two grants we receive each year. Those have their limitations, however, and donations may be used to cover items that grants do not.
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 currently offer an internship program in partnership with the University of North Florida criminal justice department.
Other internship and volunteer opportunities may present themselves in the future. If you are interested in assisting Project: Cold Case, please reach out.