Gossip is a valuable commodity in prison.
So are playing cards.
One Spokane woman is hoping to combine the two for a greater good.
Rita Amunrud wants to produce decks of playing cards that feature details of unsolved homicides and missing persons cases from Spokane County and distribute them among inmates inside state prisons. Each card would promise a reward for helpful tipsters.
The cards were designed nearly three years ago, but supporters haven’t raised enough money to get them printed.
Now, as the 40th anniversary of her mother’s unsolved murder approaches, Amunrud is trying to revitalize that effort.
“It’s going to take someone coming forward,” she said. “What better way to spread the word than through playing cards?”
Cold Case playing cards began in Florida and have also been produced in Washington for unsolved homicides in King and Snohomish counties.
Police in southeast Virginia used $7,500 in donations last summer to distribute 10,000 decks.
Jails in Washington, D.C., also distribute the cards.
A Florida-based company, Effective Playing Cards, has produced more than 1 million decks in at least 12 states, Bob Wagner, the firm’s operations manager, told the Washington Post. Police have solved at least 20 homicides and missing-person cases profiled on cards, Wagner said.
Amunrud learned of the cards from Taryn Chambers, whose sister, Laurie Partridge, disappeared while walking home from Ferris High School in 1974.
Partridge is featured on the deck’s ace of diamonds. Amunrud’s mother, Lura-Marie Ethel Ritchie, is the queen of hearts.
Ritchie was 38 when she was found shot to death in a ditch about four miles northwest of Airway Heights on Feb. 19, 1971. A Spokane County sheriff’s detective interviewed Ritchie’s husband at a Utah prison, but no arrests were made. Amunrud believes the man, who was her stepfather, may have hired someone to kill her mother. She’s hopeful a prisoner may recognize her mother’s story or know where her stepfather is now.
“They gossip more than women in there,” Amunrud said. “That’s what’s going to solve it, if somebody somewhere has the information and they go, ‘I need that money.’ ”
Amunrud and Chambers worked with local law enforcement to design the cards, which feature 50 other unsolved Spokane County cases.
Sheriff’s Detective Mike Ricketts, who is investigating Partridge’s disappearance, said the cards are often sold in prison commissaries.
“People involved in criminal activity associate together and talk about things they’ve done,” Ricketts said. “This could possibly generate more tips.”
“As many of these cards as we can permeate the United States with, the better,” Amunrud said.