Connecticut authorities look to 'Cold Case' playing cards to crack unsolved homicides

Connecticut detectives are hoping a game of Blackjack might solve the decades-old disappearance of Regina Brown, a vivacious American Airlines flight attendant and mother of three last seen on a March night in 1987 in Newtown.

The face of 35-year-old Brown is among 51 others featured on "Cold Case" playing cards distributed throughout the Connecticut correctional system to solicit tips in unsolved homicides and missing persons cases throughout the state.

The 52-deck of cards is the third edition to be produced by the Cold Case Unit in the Office of the Chief State's Attorney, along with the Department of Correction and other law enforcement groups, since 2010.

Connecticut is among a handful of states, such as Florida and Indiana, to use the innovative method to solve crimes that have long baffled investigators and agonized victims' families.

The gains, authorities say, have been profitable. Connecticut's first two decks generated 470 tips from inmates and "led directly or indirectly to nine of the those cold cases being solved," Chief State's Attorney Kevin Kane told Wednesday.

"Sometimes people remember something they assume the police already knew or they didn't think it was important," Kane said. "Sometimes it jogs a memory the inmate was reluctant to talk about years ago but is no longer reluctant to talk about. And sometimes people just feel guilty about either having participated in a crime or knowing the person who did it and never telling anyone."

"We have at least 1,100 unsolved homicides in the state of Connecticut," he said. "Every one of these victims has a mother, father ... a brother and sister. All of them lived in a community and it's important we not forget about them."

Following the release of the first card deck in 2010, an arrest was eventually made in the 2006 murder of Alexandra Ducsay, a 26-year-old aspiring actress and dancer found stabbed to death inside her Milford, Conn., home.

Featured in the latest edition is 17-year-old Travis Washington, whose face is shown on a king of diamonds. Washington was found shot to death in New Haven in 2011 in a murder that remains unsolved. Other faces include 43-year-old Linda Raynor, whose body was found in Hammonasset State Park in Madison on June 27, 1992, and 55-year-old Ricardo "Ricky" James who was killed inside his Bridgeport apartment in 2013 before the residence was set on fire.

The playing cards are the only ones available to inmates at all correctional facilities in Connecticut. Inmates must purchase the cards, Kane said, and all revenue from the sales goes toward producing more sets.

Each card shows the victim's face and provides brief details about the case, including a tip line, e-mail address and mailing address inmates can use to divulge information. Tips can remain anonymous.

All three editions of the playing cards can be found on the Connecticut Department of Correction's website.

"Every tip has the potential to bring law enforcement one step closer to obtaining justice for victims and a sense of closure for their surviving family members," the department says on its website.