Project Cold Case’s 5th Year in Existence
The Downtown Duval Building is honored and excited to announce the 5th anniversary for one of our tenants, Project Cold Case. This past weekend, they held an event to celebrate their anniversary and over 160 people were in attendance to show their support. This was a record turnout for any Project Cold Case event. The event grossed over $21,000! The non-profit will use these donations to continue to help any family that happens to find themselves facing a cold case file.
What is a Cold Case?
You may be asking, what is a cold case? A cold case, as defined by dictionary.com, is “an unsolved criminal investigation which remains open pending the discover of new evidence”. Unfortunately, there are nearly 185,000 cases of homicide and non-negligent manslaughter that have gone unsolved from 1980 to 2008. Which means, cold case files affect nearly two-hundred thousand families.
How Project Cold Case Came About
One person directly affected by a cold case file is Ryan Backmann. A burglar shot Ryan’s father, Cliff, during a robbery on October 10th, 2009. Cliff was working a side job at the time for extra income to support his wife of 24 years, who was sadly dying of cancer. Within the first year following his father’s death, Ryan left his architectural career to become a victim’s advocate. About 15 months after the incident, a detective approached Ryan and his family. The detective explained that they had run out of leads, no tips had come in (despite an enhanced $13,000 reward), and the case was being “suspended”. In other words, Cliff Backmann’s case was now a cold case. Despite the horrific news, Ryan continued to serve as an advocate for other families of homicide victims until December 2014.
In January 2015, Ryan took an even bigger role advocating for families of homicide victims. With deep passion and a razor-thin budget of $1,000 and Ryan began his nonprofit, Project Cold Case. It all started as a means to educate the public about cold cases by publicizing the individuals effected using the internet and social media.
Despite limited resources, Ryan created a website that was initially designed to share photos of cold case victims. This let families know their loved ones were not forgotten and that people cared. Families then started to submit their cold case files, so Project Cold Case added a database to the website. The database began to list murder cases that covered a wide range of years. Which led to Project Cold Case working closely with law enforcement agencies across the country. With this added cooperation, families began to receive more support than ever before.
Project Cold Case Today
Over the past five years, they have grown to support three full-time employees. They also established their permanent location in an office space at the Downtown Duval building. The building is located in downtown Jacksonville just three blocks from the Sheriff’s office. The nonprofit also utilizes interns from the University of North Florida as well as community volunteers. These interns and volunteers help with various tasks, including updating the website.
The website now features the faces of over 700 unsolved murder victims. The added database houses information on 23,000 cold cases, including over 5,000 from Florida alone. Each week, the website provides a few “Cold Case Spotlights”. These featured cases are typically cases that have been out of the public’s eye for quite some time. Along with the featured “Spotlight” cases, local news stations partnered with Project Cold Case to help promote awareness. Any killer not caught is free to harm other citizens.
Project Cold Case provides assistance to law enforcement in various ways. The nonprofit helps with advocacy training, conference presentations and participating in the Florida Sheriff’s Association Cold Case Advisory Commission. To date, 18 cases featured on the website have been solved.
As previously mentioned, this past weekend a fundraiser was held to honor Project Cold Case’s fifth year of existence. Of the 160 people in attendance, many were the family members of victims listed on the site. There was also representation from law enforcement from multiple Sheriff offices, including: Jacksonville, Clay County, Alachua, and Seminole County. Included were also various police departments from all over florida, including: Orlando, Seminole, and Lake City. Even retired FBI, the State Attorney’s Office 4th Judicial Circuit, retired NCIS, retired DEA and a Florida Department of Law Enforcement DNA analyst attended the event. The nonprofit had great support from UNF with three professors, two interns, and a handful of students making an appearance. The mayor of Atlantic Beach came out to join as well. It was the largest event thus far for Project Cold Case and was very successful at that!
If you missed the event, don’t worry. You can watch on Facebook or check out their website: https://www.projectcoldcase.org/. On the website, you can submit a case, donate to the nonprofit and see their database of cold case files. If you have other questions, comments or concerns you can reach the nonprofit by emailing them at: firstname.lastname@example.org.