All of their faces seem to make the same appeal: Can you help solve my case?
On the six of diamonds is the face of Erika Cirioni, who disappeared in Norwich in 2006.
An unidentified John Doe, whose body was recovered from the Connecticut River by Old Saybrook police in 1998, is the nine of hearts.
The ace of clubs belongs to Janette Reynolds, who was last seen hitchhiking in Colchester in 1978, and whose body was found the following year in the City of Groton.
The playing cards, highlighting 52 unsolved homicides and missing person cases, are being distributed among the 18,250 inmates in the state’s 17 correctional facilities. The Chief State’s Attorney’s Office in partnership with the Department of Correction and law enforcement agencies created the cards.
Each card has a picture of the missing person or victim, along with a description of the case and a phone number where callers can leave an anonymous tip.
Carol Cirioni, Erika’s mother, was present Monday at the unveiling of the playing cards at the Chief State’s Attorney’s Office in Rocky Hill. She hopes the cards will give her and Erika’s two sons some answers.
Erika Cirioni was last seen on Dec. 31, 2006 on Division Street in Norwich.
“Her two sons need her so badly,” said her mother. “They miss her so much. We can’t even celebrate New Year’s Eve because that is when Erika disappeared.”
She continues to buy Christmas gifts for the daughter who she says was a bit troubled but would never abandon her children, now 13 and 9.
“I think something terrible happened,” said Cirioni. “I know someone out there has information on what happened to her. If they are any type of a human being, they would come forward.”
Leo C. Arnone, commissioner of corrections, said he hopes the cards will trigger new information from inmates.
“Somebody out there somewhere knows what happened in these cases,” said Arnone. “We’re hoping that these cards will generate new information to help solve these crimes.”
Chief State’s Attorney Kevin Kane said there are between 400 and 500 unsolved homicides and disappearances. The cases depicted on the cards were selected with the help of local law enforcement agencies and the state’s Cold Case Unit.
“Some of these cases are homicides committed by people who may have committed other homicides or will commit another homicide in the future,” Kane said. “These families are living with the loss of a loved one, hoping to find some answers.”
Beth Profeta said: “Twenty-six years ago my mother was murdered.”
Her mother, Mary Badaracco, of Sherman, was last seen Aug. 20, 1984.
“My family was killed on that day, too,” Profeta said. “We need to solve this case now. If an inmate out there has information, please come forward.”
Badaracco has been presumed dead even though her remains have never been found.
Gloria Jean Bell describes herself as a “dead woman walking.” Her son, Edward Bell Jr., was killed just a short distance from their Hartford home on May 6, 2005.
“I heard the gunshot and there I saw my son lying on the ground in the rain,” said Bell. “They killed me that night.”
Placement of the victims on the cards was done at random, Kane said. Featured on the king of hearts is William Spicer Jr., who was 82 when he was killed on his tree farm on Thomas Road in Groton in 1995.
Desiree Michaud is on the queen of clubs. She was found murdered inside a motel room on Route 184 in Groton in 1984.
The $12,250 cost of producing the playing cards was financed by criminal asset forfeitures, not taxpayer money.
The cards are modeled after decks distributed to U.S. troops in Iraq shortly after the 2003 invasion. The decks there featured the names and likenesses of that country’s most wanted fugitives, including Saddam Hussein as the ace of spades.
At least 20 other states are using “cold case” playing cards to help solve cases that seem to have no new leads.
The first round of cards will be distributed free of charge to the inmates. The cards will eventually be the only playing decks available to inmates for purchase for 64 cents at a prison commissary. Posters will also be distributed at police stations.
“All of these cases involve the disappearance or death of somebody’s loved ones,” said Kane.