The FBI is looking for a few beautiful minds to help solve a murder case. If you think you have what it takes to crack a code that the best cryptanalysts in the country have failed for 12 years to master, they'd like to hear from you.
On June 30, 1999, police in St. Louis found the body of Rick McCormick, 41, who had been murdered and dumped in a field. The only clues the FBI found about the time leading up to his death came in the form of two pieces of paper in his pants pocket: Handwritten on the scraps were 30 lines of numbers and letters grouped into several sections.
After 12 years of trying to untangle the cryptographic mess, investigators from the FBI's Cryptanalysis and Racketeering Records Unit and the American Cryptogram Association are throwing up their hands.
This is where you come in.
"We are really good at what we do," said CRRU's Dan Olson in a statement. "But we could use a little help on this one. Breaking the code could reveal the victim's whereabouts before his death and could lead to the solution of a homicide."
"Maybe someone with a fresh set of eyes might come up with a brilliant new idea," wrote Olson.
McCormick was a high school drop-out -- literate and street smart -- who had written encrypted notes to himself ever since he was a child. But none of his friends or relatives had ever been given the key to his cipher, according to the FBI. Investigators suspect the notes were written up to three days before his death and unlocking the code could lead to information about the time before his death.
"Even if we found out he was writing a grocery list or a love letter, we would still want to see how the code is solved," Olson wrote. "This is a cipher system we know nothing about."
To advance the cold case, investigators are also on the lookout for other examples of McCormick's encrypted messages to himself, Olson said.
What's in it for you? Just "the satisfaction of knowing that your brain power might help bring a killer to justice," said the statement. "Standard routes of cryptanalysis seem to have hit brick walls."
If you have any insight into McCormick's code, Olson's team is eager to hear from you. You can reach them at:
Cryptanalysis and Racketeering Records Unit
2501 Investigation Parkway
Quantico, VA 22135
Attn: Ricky McCormick Case