Duval County has more than 1,200 unsolved murders dating back to 1970, but no statewide data is available.
Now advocates from the Jacksonville group Project: Cold Case hope their online database will help find justice for forgotten victims.
A Jacksonville man, who tried unsuccessfully to get state funding for the database, created his own.
“We’re not going to give up,” said Ryan Backmann, who runs Project: Cold Case. “We’ll do anything we can ourselves without the help of (Florida Department of Law Enforcement) or the governor or law enforcement.”
Backmann started the group six years ago after his father was murdered. His dad’s case is one of more than 1,300 cold cases volunteers have already logged in the public database. Most of the victims in the database are from Jacksonville. He’s hoping other counties will input their unsolved deaths in the database.
“What we hope it will provide is a place for people with information about a murder or an unsolved homicide; to view that homicide — make sure that it is still indeed unsolved — and give them the proper tools and people to contact,” he said.
Backmann said people can search the database by ZIP code, which he hopes will raise awareness of unsolved cases in their own neighborhood. It’s also searchable by race, gender and even weapon.
This year, Governor Rick Scott vetoed $50,000 that would have created a Florida cold case task force. The vetoed proposal was based on one Colorado enacted in 2007. Since then, that state created a database similar to the one Backmann’s group is compiling. Audrey Simkins runs it.
“It got the topic in the public and it kind of got the topic going around in law enforcement so it brought it more to our attention that it’s something that we needed to look at,” Simkins said.
The Florida database can be viewed at Projectcoldcase.org.