Unsolved homicides: Playing cards seek tips from inmates in Butler County Jail

Sydney Garcia-Tovar, 16, had just graduated from Hamilton City School’s Miami School as part of an independent learning program when she was shot while behind the wheel on the night of July 23 at Tyler’s Creek Apartments.
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Sydney Garcia-Tovar, 16, had just graduated from Hamilton City School’s Miami School as part of an independent learning program when she was shot while behind the wheel on the night of July 23 at Tyler’s Creek Apartments.

Hope Dudley is seeking justice for not only her son, but for more than 100 families in the region who have not found closure for a loved one’s homicide.

And she is banking on playing cards in the hands of inmates to turn up information.

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Hope Dudley’s son, Chaz, was killed in a drive-by shooting in Hamilton County in 2007. Dudley became an activist for victims, founding the group U-Can-Speak-For-Me. The group distributes posters, flyers and playing cards featuring photos of homicide victims to prisons and jails, along with public locations, in the hope that someone will come forward with information.

When Dudley began the journey of turning her grief into activism, the cards and posters pictured Hamilton County unsolved homicides. New card decks that were delivered to the Butler County Jail on Tuesday feature 11 cases from this county and several from Montgomery County. The 5,000 decks will be delivered to jails in the region and Ohio prisons.

Hope Dudley delivers new decks of playing cards featuring unsolved homicides in the region to the Butler County Jail on Tuesday. LAUREN PACK/STAFF
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Hope Dudley delivers new decks of playing cards featuring unsolved homicides in the region to the Butler County Jail on Tuesday. LAUREN PACK/STAFF

The new decks are at the Butler County commissary ready for purchase by inmates.

The oldest Butler County case included on the cards is the death of Nancy Ann Theobald, whose body was found in December 1977 at Beckett Road near Rialto Road. Theobald was a University of Cincinnati student when she left her part-time job at Arby’s in Clifton to walk home on Nov. 16, 1977. She was never seen alive again.

The newest Butler County unsolved case in the deck is that of Sydney A. Garcia-Tovar, who was shot and killed on July 23, 2018 in a parking on Wilderbrand Road in Fairfield Twp. All cards include the Crime Stoppers Hotline number.

MORE: Mother: Someone must speak up to solve teen daughter’s homicide

Dudley replenishes the cards about every five years. She asks permission from families to feature cases on the cards.

“It is making a difference with the families because families of unsolved homicides or cold cases want to know that information is out there on their loved ones’ cases, and inmates actually like looking at the cards because it lets them know what is going on in the community,” Dudley said.

“There is no statute of limitations when it comes to murder, no matter how long ago, you will still get arrested for the crime.”

New playing cards featuring photos and stories of cold case victims were delivered to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction by the U Can Speak for Me organization. The group was founded by Hope Dudley, of Cincinnati, shortly after her son, Chaz, was killed in a 2007 drive-by shooting. They include a number of Butler County unsolved homicides. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF
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New playing cards featuring photos and stories of cold case victims were delivered to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction by the U Can Speak for Me organization. The group was founded by Hope Dudley, of Cincinnati, shortly after her son, Chaz, was killed in a 2007 drive-by shooting. They include a number of Butler County unsolved homicides. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

The card decks sell for $1.59 at the Butler County Jail, and 50 decks were available.

“If we can solve one, that is great,” said Lt. Nick Fisher, the Butler County Jail warden. “And you never know when that will happen. The act of devils are rarely witnessed by angels, so inmates are a good source of information.”

All money from the commissary’s card sales will go back to Dudley’s organization. She said that, through the sales, the card project has become self-sustaining with donations, including one this year from the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office.

The new card decks will be unveiled on Feb. 8 at Higher Faith Ministry on Southland Boulevard in Hamilton County, and a press conference will be held Feb. 9 at the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office.

MORE: 8 unsolved cases the continue to haunt Butler County families