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Playing cards depicting victims of local cold cases removed from Ohio jail for ‘security reasons’

The playing cards, designed to elicit new leads, are being used to compromise locking mechanisms, the sheriff said


Hamilton County Sheriff Charmaine McGuffey said decks of cards, in any form, are now not sold in the jail.

Butler County Sheriff’s Office

By Lauren Pack

HAMILTON, Ohio — Special decks of playing card depicting the faces of unsolved homicide victims and missing persons in the region will remain available in the Butler County Jail, despite their removal from a neighboring county’s jail.

Cincinnati’s Hope Dudley is seeking justice for not only her son, but for hundreds of families in the region who have not found closure for a loved one’s homicide. Using posters and playing cards in the hands of inmates, she is banking on information turning up.

Dudley’s son, Chaz, was killed in a drive-by shooting in Hamilton County in 2007. Dudley became an activist for victims, founding the group U Can Speak For Me. The group distributes posters, flyers and playing cards featuring photos of homicide victims to prisons and jails, along with public locations, in the hope that someone will come forward with information.

When Dudley began the journey of turning her grief into activism, the cards and posters pictured Hamilton County unsolved homicides. Now the card decks feature cases from Butler County and several from Montgomery County.

This week, Dudley became aware the cards have been removed from the Hamilton County Justice Center due to “security reasons.”

"(Former Hamilton County Sheriff) Jim Neil trusted the cold-case playing cards would become a conversation starter amongst inmates to help cultivate new tips on unsolved murder cases. This caught the attention and active support from (Butler County) Sheriff Richard Jones and the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections,” Dudley said. It appears current Hamilton County officials view the cold-case information to assist families and law enforcement has become a “security risk.”

The latest installment of new cold-case playing cards were delivered a year ago in Hamilton County and have been distributed to law enforcement across Ohio.

“Until a week ago no one knew there was a security risk associated with using these innovative tools to help families seek justice and closure,” Dudley said.

Hamilton County Sheriff Charmaine McGuffey said decks of cards, in any form, are now not sold in the jail.

“Historically, we have supported, and continue to support Hope 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,” McGuffy said. “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.”

She added, “Our goal is to 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.”

Butler County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Anthony Dwyer said they have not encountered any problems in the jail specifically tied to the playing cards.

“We still have them and will continue to sell them in the commissary,” Dwyer said, but he added security issues always arise and the staff must remain vigilant.

“We always have problems with inmates trying to (do) something nefarious. We have to pay attention. If it’s not a card, it is going to be something else. Just something you deal with running a jail,” Dwyer said. He added playing cards have been available for “as long as I can remember” in the jail and inmates can also purchase pinochle decks.

Dudley said families of victims have planned a rally for 2 p.m. Saturday on the sidewalk outside the Hamilton County Justice Center at 900 Sycamore St. in Cincinnati. Families are encouraged to wear T-shirts displaying their family member’s card picture.

(c)2021 the Journal-News (Hamilton, Ohio)