Cold case legislation would ease calls for reinvestigations of unsolved murders

cold case crime unsolved
According to Project: Cold Case, nearly 20,000 murders in Florida are unsolved.

Families of unsolved murder victims could gain a new tool in seeking answers through proposed legislation by a pair of South Florida lawmakers.

Tamarac Sen. Rosalind Osgood and Miami Gardens Rep. Christopher Benjamin have filed twin bills (SB 350/HB 837) to make it easier for residents to ask police to reinvestigate homicide cold cases.

The murder in question must have occurred at least five years before, and the person requesting another look into the case must be an immediate family member, in-law or legal guardian of the victim.

The measure, titled the “Decker-Backmann Act,” is named for Marilyn Decker, whose 1987 murder in Davie remains a mystery, and a Jacksonville man named Clifford Backmann who was robbed and killed by an unknown assailant in 2009.

Backmann’s son, Ryan Backmann, has since created Project: Cold Case to help people like himself share tips, support each other and advocate for policy changes.

He told First Coast News last month that he worked with Osgood and Benjamin, both Democrats, on their legislation.

According to Project: Cold Case, there are nearly 20,000 unsolved murders in Florida today.

SB 350 and HB 837 would require all law enforcement agencies in the state to review an unsolved murder within their jurisdiction upon receiving a written application from a victim’s family member. The review would then determine if a full reinvestigation of the case could identify new leads or a likely perpetrator.

Any such review would have to include looking into whether investigative procedures were either absent or missed in a prior investigation. Agencies would also have to assess which witnesses should be interviewed or re-interviewed and examine physical evidence to determine whether all appropriate testing was performed initially and if additional tests might create new leads.

If a reinvestigation is merited, the agency must conduct one, but not solely by a person who previously investigated the murder. And reinvestigations that result in no likely suspects may not be done again for five years unless “materially significant evidence is discovered.”

If passed, the measure would go into effect July 1, 2025, by which time each law enforcement agency in the state must have trained its employees and officers to properly carry out cold case reviews and reinvestigations.

Under the legislation, cold case reviews may take no longer than 18 months from the date of a request, inclusive of an initial one-year review period, plus one optional six-month extension.

By Oct. 1, 2025, and every quarter after, each police agency in the state would have to report all data relevant to cold case reviews to Florida International University’s Global Forensic and Justice Center, which would establish and maintain a searchable case-tracking system and website.

SB 474 and HB 529 both await a first committee hearing.

Jesse Scheckner

Jesse Scheckner has covered South Florida with a focus on Miami-Dade County since 2012. His work has been recognized by the Hearst Foundation, Society of Professional Journalists, Florida Society of News Editors, Florida MMA Awards and Miami New Times. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner.


  • My Take

    December 14, 2023 at 1:53 am

    I was in another east coast state about a half dozen years ago when the local news said a long-time local resident was arrested for the murder of two cops in the mid-1950s in California!.
    Better modern databases anď analytical programs … and cops still looking out for their own.

  • Recon Diver

    December 18, 2023 at 4:29 pm

    Too often the investigating agency will archive a Cold Case “pending new information,” meaning unless a witness comes forward or new evidence is stumbled upon, it gets left cold and never revisited.

    As Cold Case investigators using next generation Sonar Search & Dive Recovery tools, tactics, & procedures we often uncover new evidence & victims (over 130 cars & 4 victims located underwater in 2023).

    This new Law can help Victim’s Families request additional investigation by Law Enforcement for cases 5+ yrs cold. We have recently solved cases as old as 17, 22, & 31 years old.

    We look forward to partnering with Law Enforcement as we continue our Volunteer work, provided 100% free to Law Enforcement & Victims Families thanks to donations and our own resources. This is a wonderful opportunity for additional work to be done and to widen the scope of Investigations to include unconventional methods such as underwater search. -Recon Dive Recovery

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