Major cold case backlog delaying justice for grieving Jacksonville families

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Right now in Jacksonville there are hundreds of families being denied justice in the deaths of their loved ones. Some have been waiting for decades for their day in court while their loved one’s case gets colder by the day.

One of the many cold cases in Jacksonville’s backlog involves 22-year-old Amber Bass. She was Robin Lezcano’s only sister.

“We were inseparable especially that last year,” said Lezcano.

Lezcano keeps a frame above her couch filled with butterflies that appear to leap off the frame. She said those butterflies describe her little sister the best.

“When we are really missing her or even in moments of frustration at the system a butterfly will appear out of nowhere,” said Lezcano.

On July 19, 2013 Lezcano found her sister in their front yard, dying from a gunshot wound,

“I remembered them taking her away in the ambulance and how the whole world just kind of got quiet,” said Lezcano.

Lezcano moved out of that home after she died and wonders why her sister’s killer still hasn’t been caught. It's been more than a year since Crime Stoppers has received a tip on her case.

“We're being told it's being worked on and you get tired of hearing that after a while,” said Lezcano.

Ryan Backmann knows exactly what Lezcano is going through. His dad was shot and killed in 2009 while doing construction work alone in a Southpoint office building.

The killer has never been brought to justice.

Backmann now shares his dad's death, Amber's and hundreds of other cold cases on his website Project Cold Case.

“The real issue becomes public safety it goes back to the bill we are trying to pass, this is a public safety issue,” said Backmann.

Backmann teamed up with Sen. Aaron Bean to push through a bill that would create a statewide cold case task force.

It's the third time Bean has filed the bill but Backmann is hoping this year it'll finally pass. In the meantime, Backmann has spent thousands traveling to Washington, D.C., Tallahassee and to Colorado to find out how other states handle cold cases.

“I met with the organization that did get legislation passed in Colorado and they have a database in Colorado and they have a review team in Colorado,” said Backmann.

Action News Jax reached out to the Colorado Bureau of Investigations and learned the entire state of Colorado has a backlog of 1,329 unsolved homicides, compared with 752 cold cases in Jacksonville alone.

But the exact number unsolved homicides in Florida is unknown because the Florida Department of Law Enforcement doesn't collect that information, which Backmann believes is part of the problem.

“There are too many people unaffected by homicide making the decisions. They can't look me in the eye and say this is not important,” said Backmann.

Lezcano is also keeping her sister’s case alive, you’ll see her now and then holding signs and vigils hoping to generate more leads. She said Project Cold Case is doing what law enforcement isn’t, keeping the memory of those murdered fresh in our minds.

“I'm here talking to you 2 1/2 years later and I have basically the same information I had on Day One and I feel like they could do so much more,” said Lezcano.

Until her sister’s case is solved, Lezcano said she’ll continue to look for Amber’s spirit in the butterflies.

“It's just like her. She's this energetic bright sunny person and we feel like it's a part of her, it’s a way for us to connect to her again,” said Lezcano.

Backmann said now that he’s a dad himself, he gets his motivation from his young daughter Mae.

“It's important for her to know that I'm trying to give her a world that's safer,” said Backmann.