Sheriff turns up the spotlight on cold cases
A woman was asleep in her own Westside home one night 23 years ago when she was stabbed to death as her children slept in the next room, the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office said.
No suspect was ever found in the death of Brandy Lea Beverly, 23, one of hundreds of cases that ultimately went cold.
Now the Sheriff's Office has launched a new Cold Case Spotlight on its social media sites "to seek justice for crime victims, both old and new, and their loved ones." The monthly feature, leading off with Beverly's stabbing, resulted after the son of another cold-case victim reached out to police.
Project Cold Case founder Ryan Backmann began a website of the same name in 2015 after his father, Cliff Backmann, was killed during a robbery on Bonneval Road in Jacksonville on Oct. 10. 2009.
Project Cold Case's database contains information on unsolved homicides in Jacksonville, plus the state, country and world. Now the idea to go viral to seek new leads to help solve them has taken root on the department's Facebook and Twitter pages, Backmann said.
"We have 1,500 to 1,600 unsolved murders in Jacksonville, and the Sheriff's Office had never used their social media platforms to raise awareness for any of the unsolved ones," Backmann said. "We see the value in using social media to reach as many people as possible.
"You just don't know how you are going to reach the right person. And these things really do make the families feel comfortable like their loved one is not forgotten and the detectives are working on the case, or at least reviewing the case periodically to see if there is anything new that can be done."
Sheriff's Office spokesman Christian Hancock said the agency wanted "more of a push" for the cases, with more frequent information disseminated on them.
"It is not only a social media campaign; we will also include a news release to our media partners with each push," Hancock said in an email. "The current plan is to release a new case every month."
A mom's murder
Project Cold Case lists Beverly's homicide on its website.
It was Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2000, that officers were called to a home in the 5700 block of Connie Jean Road, just south of 103rd Street in the Jacksonville Heights community. Someone was dead in the home, later found to have been beaten and stabbed. An autopsy termed it a homicide.
Detectives followed up leads for years, and several people were interviewed. But eventually, without further information, the case went cold, police said.
In unsolved killings like this, Backmann said some victim families feel like they have been forgotten, so Project Cold Case suggested the new police social media campaign "a while ago." With the new administration led by Sheriff T.K. Waters, the proposal gained traction, and its detectives will choose which cases are placed in the spotlight, he said.
"We sat down recently and we talked about this, and they felt like it was a great idea," Backmann said. "This is an opportunity to raise more awareness for these cases and hopefully reach the right person who has the information and comes forward to assist with the investigation and provide some resolution."
This new social media campaign will be in addition to the quarterly cold case spotlights that a homicide detective gave to local news outlets in recent years, Hancock added, to supplement the monthly news releases.
Anyone having any information related to Beverly’s death is asked to contact the Sheriff’s Office at (904) 630-0500, or via email at JSOCrimeTips@jaxsheriff.org. To remain anonymous and be eligible for a possible reward, call First Coast Crime Stoppers at 1-866-845-8477 (TIPS).