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When A Criminal Investigation Goes Cold In Florida Lawmakers Want To Keep The Heat On

Exeter Anna

You’re familiar with the story. An early morning jogger is running through the park when her dog smells something strange, veers off course and the two discover a dead body.

It’s the kind of scene used to start countless criminal investigation stories. But Senator Aaron Bean (R-Jacksonville) says those stories aren't realistic.

“If you watch TV and you watch murder shows, you think that we solve all of our murders and we solve our murders within 60 minutes. But in reality that’s not the case,” Bean says.

Bean says hundreds of murders go unsolved every year –murders like the 2009 killing of Cliff Backman.

Ryan Backman who started the group Project Cold Case is Cliff's son. He says his Dad was working on a weekend, trying to earn extra money to help cover the cost of his wife’s breast cancer treatment.

“He was by himself when an unknown assailant walked up behind him, walked into the building, shot him in the back while he was vacuuming up drywall dust, took his wallet and left,” Backman says.

Backman says police worked the case for about a year and a half and then all the leads they had dried up.

“I had tried to prepare myself for the fact that the person who killed my dad would never be caught, but I never was able to prepare myself for the fact that someone would stop looking. You always think someone is out there looking for these bad guys,” Backman says.

Backman says the issue is really a matter of public safety. He says whoever killed his dad is still out there.

“He’s you know, your neighbor, he’s in line behind you at the bank,” Backman says.

Bean says Florida needs more tools to keep working on cases like Backman’s. Right now, he says there doesn’t seem to be a consistent process. Bean says there’s no clear definition of what a cold case is in Florida. And that’s not all.

“There are currently no central databases collecting data for all cold cases collectively...Local law enforcement agencies, it doesn’t appear they have any type of review or evaluation of policies regarding cold cases,” Bean says.

Bean is sponsoring a measure to set up a cold case task force to tackle some of those issues. He says the task force would be housed by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and would focus on finding ways the state can better solve cases once they’ve gone cold.

Follow @Regan_McCarthy

Regan McCarthy is the Assistant News Director for WFSU Public Media. Before coming to Tallahassee, Regan graduated with honors from Indiana University’s Ernie Pyle School of Journalism. She worked for several years for NPR member station WFIU in Bloomington, Ind., where she covered local and state government and produced feature and community stories.

Phone: (850) 645-6090 | rmccarthy@fsu.edu

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