In Depth: Police Unveil New Effort To Solve Cold Cases

Closing unsolved criminal cases across the Commonwealth is the focus of a new initiative unveiled by Kentucky State Police. Decks of playing cards play a vital role in the effort.

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In December 2003, Bob Hunt was murdered in the bedroom of his Grayson County home. The gregarious owner of the Leitchfield Huddle House was shot several times while he slept. Seven years later, his murder remains unsolved, which upsets his sister, Brenda Hunt.

“We’ve never found the person or persons that murdered my brother that day,” says Hunt. “And it still seems impossible that someone would murder him. Just incredible that someone would murder your brother. For years we’ve tried everything conceivable to help bring this criminal or criminals to justice.”

The cold case also frustrates Kentucky State Police, the lead investigative agency in the murder. But KSP Commissioner Rodney Brewer hopes a new initiative will help lead to an arrest and bring the Hunt family some closure. It involves the distribution of nine thousand decks of playing cards, with the names and faces of murdered and missing Kentuckians on the 52 cards in each deck. Bob Hunt is the seven of diamonds.

“They were specifically developed to target one target audience and that is our inmate population in our penal institutions and some select jails throughout the Commonwealth of Kentucky,” said Brewer, “because obviously that is where many of the criminal elements congregate. That’s where they talk, and interact, and exchange information on a daily basis.”

Commissioner Brewer says cases selected for the initiative were provided by all 16 KSP posts, and the Louisville and Lexington police departments. The playing cards have all been approved by the families of victims pictured. Each playing card contains a photo, a brief description of the crime and a toll free tip line number.

“That will be manned by law enforcement officers and answered,” said Brewer. “And the number is 1-877-735-2648. We have also set up an email address that tips can be sent to, and that is kyunsolved@ky.gov.”

Since the playing cards will not be distributed to the general public, KSP is placing photos of all 52 cards on its website. Funding for the initiative is being provided by the Department of Criminal Justice Training through a U.S. Office of Justice grant.

“Fortunately there was enough money in the grant that we are going to be able to give these cards to over half the inmates in our institutions – our 13 institutions, plus the two private facilities,” said Corrections Department Commissioner LaDonna Thompson. “So, we will get those out as quickly as we can. The state police will deliver them to us.”

Thompson says similar initiatives in Florida, Texas, California, Washington and Illinois have shown promising results. She says the cards have helped those states close two to three cases each, and Kentucky is distributing more cards than they did. Brenda Hunt is greatly encouraged by the effort. That’s why she agreed to let KSP use her brother’s case. Hunt says after all these years, she just wants some answers.

“He was shot with a 9mm gun, which is a very common type of gun,” said Hunt. “We have the shell casings and that’s about it. There’s really not any fingerprints, any DNA, that sort of thing. But, oh yeah, I’m very hopeful that this will help.”

Also among the victims portrayed on the cards are Livingstone County Deputy Carnie Hopkins, Jennifer Bailey of Bell County, Ralph Bigelow of Mason County, Roger King of McCreary County, Jamie Sinkhorn of Lexington, Carol Reynolds of Warren County and Roscoe Mays of Christian County.

Published by Tony McVeigh

Veteran broadcast journalist Tony McVeigh has been covering Kentucky politics since 1986, reporting for Clear Channel Communications before joining Kentucky Public Radio in 2004. His stories are aired by seven KPR affiliates, whose signals blanket the Commonwealth and parts of surrounding states. McVeigh began his broadcasting career at WRFC in Athens, Georgia, while earning a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from the University of Georgia. He has extensive anchor/reporter experience, including stints with South Carolina Network and Georgia Radio News Service in Atlanta. In 2007 and 2008, McVeigh was named Best Radio Reporter in the Kentucky Associated Press Awards. He also picked up consecutive AP Awards for Best Political Coverage. McVeigh won four Kentucky AP Awards in 2009, six in 2010 - including Best Political Coverage and Best Hard News Feature - and three in 2011. His coverage of the 2007 Kentucky governor's race topped the Political Reporting category of the Society of Professional Journalists Green Eyeshade Awards of 2008. In 2009, McVeigh placed second in Courts and Law Reporting in the Atlanta-based competition for journalists in 11 Southern states. McVeigh is also the proud recipient of an Individual Liberty Award from the Kentucky Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. The Brunswick, Georgia, native is a die-hard UGA football fan who enjoys photography, astronomy, live music, hiking Kentucky's Red River Gorge and exploring the state's beautiful back roads. McVeigh and his big, fat, black cat Simon, reside in Frankfort, KY.