January 19, 2008 in City

Women hope clues are in the cards

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Brian Plonka photo

Rita Amunrud, in her Spokane apartment on Friday, displays an example of a Cold Case card on her computer screen.
(Full-size photo)

This deck of playing cards deals in lost lives.

Survivors of two homicide victims hope inmates at the Spokane County Jail soon will be playing solitaire with Cold Case cards featuring information about unsolved killings and missing-persons cases.

The anticipation is that someone placing a red jack on a black queen will see something on the cards that triggers a memory, perhaps something overheard from a fellow inmate or on the streets.

The idea to get the cards started in Spokane comes from a cross-country connection between the two women, Spokane’s Rita Amunrud and Florida’s Taryn Chambers, who met through the Internet.

Chambers grew up in Spokane. Her sister, Laurie Partridge, went missing on the way home from Ferris High School in 1974, at the age of 17. Amunrud’s mom, Luramarie Ritchie, was found shot to death in the Spokane Valley in 1971.

Chambers knew about Cold Case cards because they originated in Florida. She told Amunrud about them, and the 54-year-old Spokane woman got the ball rolling in December.

“This is what we need to get going, and get someone to come forward,” Chambers said. “Something good will come out of it.”

With the help of Spokane County Commissioner Bonnie Mager, Amunrud met with sheriff’s officials. She has also spoken with city authorities.

Roger Betchart, owner of Ace’s Bail Bonds, has agreed to pay $3,000 for the first 50 decks. His company’s name will be on the back of each one, the cold case information will be featured on the front along with the card’s suit.

Amunrud wants her mom featured on the queen of hearts because she was abducted on Valentine’s Day. Her body was found four days later.

Chambers asked that her sister be featured on the ace of diamonds.

The Spokane Police Department and the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office will supply the names and brief summaries for all 52 cards, after talking to victims’ families.

“We are still selecting our cases,” Spokane County sheriff’s Capt. Jim Goodwin said. “But once we get started we aren’t too far out.”

In Florida, the decks have been distributed to prisoners statewide. Law enforcement agencies in Kansas City, San Diego and Odessa, Texas, have also produced cards.

So far, the decks have helped Florida authorities solve three years-old cases, according to various news reports.

Amunrud and Chambers are hoping for that outcome in their relatives’ cases. Investigators are also hopeful.

“What we are looking for is the one piece that makes a difference in those cases,” Goodwin said. “Information walks through the (jail) door every day.”

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