FBI crowdsources codebreaking to help solve murder mystery

FBI Note CodedThe FBI has a wide variety of technology at its disposal to solve 21st century crimes. But a murder that occurred just a year before the millennium has left agents stumped for over a decade. The FBI isn’t giving up though. Rather, it’s posted two vexing clues on the Internet, hoping to find someone skilled enough — or lucky enough — to solve a mystery that investigators believe is the key to solving the case.

When police discovered the body of Ricky McCormick, 41, in June of 1999, there appeared to be no clues as to motive or to the perpetrator’s identity. However, investigators soon discovered two mysterious notes inside of the corpse’s pants pockets. Those notes were written in a code that to this day the FBI’s Cryptanalysis and Racketeering Records Unit (CRRU) has been unable to crack. Now, it’s asking the public for help.

“We are really good at what we do,” said CRRU chief Dan Olson, on a Web page where the notes have been posted, “but we could use some help with this one.”

The code uses what the FBI refers to as “a maddening variety of letters, numbers, dashes, and parentheses.” McCormick was a high school dropout, but could read and write and had used secret codes as a boy. But, as far as the FBI knows, he never divulged his encryption method to anyone — not even his own family was privy to McCormick’s methods.

If you can crack the code or if you may have any insights at all, the FBI would love to hear from you. Keep in mind that there’s no reward being offered,  only the satisfaction of being able to beat the nation’s best codebreakers at their own game.

“Even if we found out that he was writing a grocery list or a love letter,” Olson said, “we would still want to see how the code is solved. This is a cipher system we know nothing about.”