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Local push for statewide cold case task force

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Updated: 2/25 8:43 pm
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A push to create a statewide cold case task force that could potentially change the way these cases are handled is getting its start in Jacksonville.

Jacksonville-based Compassionate Families has started a petition to get lawmakers to throw their support behind a cold case task force initiative. In only five days the petition has received more than 500 signatures. 

The walls of the group's downtown office are covered with pictures of homicide victims. According to lead advocate Ryan Backmann, hundreds of those cases remain unsolved.

"We have 1,400 unsolved homicides in Jacksonville alone," said Backmann.

Backmann said it's time to chisel away at that number.

"Let's put a task force with volunteers together that are willing to look at it. The State Attorney's Office, attorney general, crime scene technicians, victim advocates, investigators, all those type of people and give a fresh pair of eyes," said Backmann.

Robin Lezcano's sister, 22-year-old Amber Bass, was shot and killed in July 2013. Her killer is still on the loose. Lezcano said this petition gives her some hope.

"That person could kill again, they could rob another person. Just breaking another family's heart, that's what's on the line here," said Lezcano.

Backmann, whose father's murder also remains unsolved, said the goal is to create a database where all unsolved homicides can be sent every year. He said the database should be a place where law enforcement agencies and the public can access and hopefully get killers off the streets.

"This problem is a lot bigger than Jacksonville. It's a lot bigger than Florida. It's a huge problem in our country, so we are starting here and let's see where it goes," said Backmann. 

According to Backmann, Sen. Aaron Bean has expressed support. Backmann is working on the wording for the cold case legislation. He wants to have at least 1,000 signatures on the petition before taking it to Tallahassee.

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