How a deck of playing cards could help solve a Utah man’s 2005 killing — and 51 other cold cases

A detective wants to get the deck into every jail and prison in Utah in an effort to generate new leads.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Stephani Perschon, left, and her sister Niki Price talk about their brother Jason Royter, whose 2005 homicide In Magna remains unsolved. The Unified Police Department recently released a deck of playing cards with each card showing a photo and description of a cold case or missing person.

Jason Royter doodled cartoons everywhere, his sisters said. Before the 33-year-old was killed in 2005, he’d draw on newspapers, on pieces of old plywood, and on the garage wall next to where he liked to smoke.

“You would just never know when you’d run across one of his doodles,” said his sister Stephani Perschon, 57.

Now, 17 years after their “horribly funny” brother was stabbed to death in his own home in Magna, Royter’s homicide is one of hundreds of cases in Utah that have gone cold.

But Perschon and Niki Price, 54, have renewed hope that they’ll get some answers, thanks in part to a set of playing cards released by the Unified Police Department of Salt Lake’s cold case unit.

The deck is typical in almost every way, except nearly all the cards include a photo of a missing person or a victim of homicide, as well as information about the case and a phone number to call with tips.

The goal is to get the playing cards into every jail and prison in Utah and surrounding states in the hopes that they will get inmates talking about the cases and maybe coming forward with new leads.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) A playing card depicts Jason Royter, whose 2005 homicide in Magna remains unsolved. The Unified Police Department recently released a deck of playing cards with each card showing a photo and description of a cold case or missing person which will be given out in prisons, jails and halfway houses in hopes of getting people to talk about them and open up any leads. Next to the cards is a drawing by Royter, who loved to doodle, his family said.

The two sisters said they are “ecstatic” about the cards, and think they’re going to “shake up some dirt” and get people talking about their brother’s case.

“We don’t believe that just one single living person knows what happened,” Perschon said. “I believe there’s a little chain, and that chain is going to break.”

Moving cases forward

Besides two jokers, the deck includes 52 cards, each representing a case that’s under the purview of Unified Police: 34 cards about cold case homicides, 15 cards about missing persons possibly involving foul play, and three cards about cases that are solved but still have outstanding warrants associated with them.

Ben Pender, a cold case detective with Unified Police, said he got the idea for the cards from other states that have issued similar decks, including Florida, Kansas, Indiana, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Washington and others.

In 2019, the Utah Cold Case Coalition distributed its own deck of 54 cards, featuring one Utah cold case for each playing card, including both jokers.

Once the Unified Police decks are distributed to Utah jails and prisons, Pender said he’d like inmates to have free access to them, with facilities giving inmates the option to check the decks out and then return them. “This way, the playing cards can remain in the facility and be utilized by multiple people,” he said.

“At the end of the day, we all want the case to be resolved or solved,” Pender said, “but if we can progress the case forward, to me, that’s always a win as well.”

‘Everybody knows everybody’

(Courtesy photo) Jason Royter, who was killed in 2005, is shown in this undated family photo.

For Jason Royter’s case to be unsolved after so many years, “it’s an indescribable pain,” said Stephani Perschon, adding that it scares her that her brother’s killer is still out there, “because they could do it again.”

Royter was the youngest of five children, and the only son. Niki Price said he had the same laugh as his father and his own son. When she hears either of them laugh, she said, she hears her brother.

In the deck, Royter’s card is the two of clubs. According to the information on it, police didn’t see any signs of forced entry on Aug. 6, 2005, which leads Perschon and Price to think he knew his attacker.

The city of Magna is tightly knit, Perschon said. “Everybody knows everybody, and everybody knows dirt on others. So we’re kind of hoping that that’s going to work in Jason’s case.”

The cards won’t be available to the public, but the same information can be found at UPDSL.org/ColdCase.html and in the state cold case database.

To provide a tip, call the Unified Cold Case Unit at 385-468-9816, or submit it via email to Communityrelations@updsl.org.