Sheriff removing ‘cold case’ cards from Hamilton County jail due to ‘security threat’

The sheriff says the removal is temporary as the security issue is addressed.
Published: Oct. 19, 2021 at 9:27 PM EDT
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CINCINNATI (WXIX) - The Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office is removing the special playing cards from the jail due to concerns that the cards are a security threat.

The playing cards are printed with the faces of murder victims or missing persons from unsolved cases in greater Cincinnati.

Hamilton County Sheriff Charmaine McGuffey has confirmed the removal of the cards and says her office is working on a way to distribute them without compromising locking mechanisms in the jail.

McGuffey’s full statement can be read at the end of this story.

Hope Dudley has been making the playing cards through her nonprofit “U Can Speak For Me” since 2007 when her son, Daniel, was killed.

The cards have been at the Hamilton County Justice Center since 2014. Dudley says she delivers up to 600 decks to that jail yearly, bearing the faces of more than 160 victims.

The goal is to get inmates talking during card games, Dudley explains, which might inspire them to come forward with information that could close unsolved cases.

For families of the victims, the cards provide a vital sense of hope that progress is still being made on getting justice for their loved ones.

“It gave me hope that more people would be aware of my son’s murder,” said Joy Marshall whose son, Micah Wise, is on the cards.

Amy Thompson called the cards “our biggest hope and our biggest outlet.” Thompson’s brother, Brian Thompson, is on the cards as well.

Dudley says she follows the original instructions put in place by the warden when creating them.

“He wanted permission from every family,” Dudley said. “He didn’t want any direct address on the cards, and he wanted to make sure that the inmates bought the cards because it [created] a sense of ownership.”

Dudley said she reached out to jail officials last week to see if they were ready to reorder and was told the cards are not currently being used because they are a security risk.

“Couldn’t believe it,” Marshall said. “We wanted to stop the violence. We want to get some of these murderers off the street because they did it once, they’re gonna do it again. [...] My heart was hurting. I just had to break down and cry.”

Thompson, Marshall and Dudley said they hope to find out more about the security issue.

“Everybody knows it’s an older facility, and maybe they need to work on their locking mechanisms,” Thompson said. “I don’t really understand how a piece of paper could be that much of a threat, but of course, we don’t want anyone’s life to be in danger.”

Dudley says the cards are still being used in state facilities in Ohio and that the Butler County Jail just ordered 100 additional decks.

Dudley and the family members of some of the victims featured on the cards will be outside of the Hamilton County Justice Center on Saturday at 2 p.m. to peacefully rally for the cards to remain inside the facility.

Sheriff McGuffey’s statement:

“Historically, we have supported, and continue to support Hope Dudley and the organization “U Can Speak For Me”. However, recently, it has come to our attention that the inmates are using the playing cards to compromise the security of the locking mechanisms for the individual cells inside the jail.

In light of that fact, we are creating a strategy to continue to distribute these cards in a manner that will not compromise the security of the Hamilton County Jail. It is our intent to reach out to the “U Can Speak for Me” organization to collaborate and continue to support their mission, which we believe in, that these playing cards make a difference in getting justice for the victims of violent crime.”

Families affected by the cold case crimes will rally on Oct. 23 in front of the Hamilton County Justice Center to voice their support for continuing to use the cards.

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