For nearly two decades, Priority Marketing has partnered with law enforcement agencies nationwide to produce Cold Case Playing Cards.
The front side of the playing cards is standard and includes an organization’s name and logo. The back side has clubs, spades, hearts and diamonds ranging from 2 to Ace, and features cold cases unique to that jurisdiction.
Cold Case Playing Cards have led to hundreds of tips and many arrests. Just recently, U.S. Marshals arrested a homicide suspect accused of killing a victim whose playing card – the Five of Hearts – circulated in detention centers, on social media and in the media. The case was featured in a deck of cards designed by Priority Marketing.
“Our team of marketing professionals typically focuses on helping businesses grow their brands and nonprofits accomplish their missions, but the Cold Case Playing Cards offer unique opportunities to partner with law enforcement agencies,” said Priority Marketing Founder, President and Chief Creative Officer Teri Hansen, APR. “We celebrate every success for our clients, so it’s very satisfying to know these playing cards are generating tips to find missing people, solving cases and leading to arrests that give victims and their family members some sense of peace and closure.”
What are Cold Case Playing Cards?
Cold cases are law enforcement investigations in which evidence is lacking and tips have dried up. It takes months or even years before law enforcement declares a crime as a cold case.
The Cold Case Playing Cards are throwbacks to the old-fashioned “WANTED” posters. Instead of showcasing suspects, though, the playing cards feature victims and their stories.
Each of the Cold Case Playing Cards includes common elements:
- Name of the victim
- Photo of the victim
- Case classification: Unsolved homicide, missing persons, unidentified remains or another serious crime
- Description of crime/case
- Investigating law enforcement agency
- Telephone number for tip line
Priority Marketing has partnered with police departments and sheriff’s offices from coast to coast, as well as state law enforcement agencies. Decks of cards are distributed in places where law enforcement believes individuals might know information, including jails, prisons and probation offices near where the crimes took place.
Ernie Ortiz – The Five of Hearts
Ernie Ortiz owned El Conquistador, a restaurant in Garden City, Kansas. On Sept. 12, 2019, the 69-year-old man was shot outside the restaurant after closing time and later died at the hospital. Law enforcement believed he was shot during a robbery.
His case captured attention because Ortiz was a beloved community member, accomplished musician, trusted youth mentor, dedicated member of his church and successful restauranteur. His case was featured on the Dealing Justice Podcast, friends and family created the Justice for Ernie Ortiz Facebook page, and media regularly aired stories about the case.
As time went on, though, tips and leads came to a standstill.
The Garden City Police Department requested that Ortiz’ case be featured in the Kansas Cold Case Playing Cards being created by the Kansas Department of Corrections and Kansas Bureau of Investigation, in partnership with the Kansas Association of Chiefs of Police, Kansas Sheriff’s Association and Kansas Peace Officers Association.
“Not every tip received leads to resolution of a case, but someone usually knows something,” Kansas Secretary of Corrections Jeff Zmuda said in 2022. “Within Kansas correctional facilities and jails, we have segments of our population who want to do something good, perhaps atone for past mistakes, and they may have information about unsolved cases. Our hope is that we receive actionable intelligence that leads to solving cases.”
Ortiz was featured on the Five of Hearts. Playing cards were released in spring 2022, but a year later, they had not generated a promising lead in Ortiz’ case. After state law enforcement officials featured all 52 cold cases from the deck of cards, they circled back to Ortiz’ case. KAKE, the ABC affiliate in Wichita, Kansas, aired an in-depth piece in March about the cold case: Everyone’s ‘favorite uncle’: Ernie Ortiz, unsolved homicide in Garden City.
Fast-forward a few months and the Garden City Police Department obtained an arrest warrant. On Sept. 6, U.S. Marshals apprehended Samantha Smith, 32, in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. She was charged with first-degree murder and aggravated robbery.
The arrest led to widespread media coverage, including these stories:
- KAKE: Woman charged in cold case murder of Kansas restaurant owner
- KCTV: Tip leads to arrest in Kansas ‘Five of Hearts’ homicide
- KSN: U.S. Marshals make arrest in connection to murder of Garden City restaurant owner
- 12 News: Woman wanted in 2019 Garden City deadly shooting arrested in South Carolina
- KAKE: ‘This is a step in the right direction’: GCPD speaks on arrest in Ernie Ortiz murder case
- KAKE: Family of Ernie Ortiz speaks out on arrest
Are you a law enforcement agency looking for a marketing partner to help solve your cold cases? Please give us a call today at 239-267-2638 or send an email to LetsTalk@PriorityMarketing.com.