What Happens to America's Missing and Unidentified?

Some Jane and John Doe cases are cold, while others are in 'deep freeze'
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 6, 2015 1:04 PM CDT
"Tent Girl" was discovered in Georgetown, Ky., in 1968. It took three decades to identify her as Barbara Ann Hackmann-Taylor.   (Courtesy of Todd Matthews)

(Newser) – On any given day there are 80,000 people missing, the FBI estimates, while the list of unidentified deceased people is some 10,000 Jane and John Does long. Some cases are cold, while others are in "deep freeze," reports Reveal, the publishing arm of the Center for Investigative Reporting, which submitted dozens of state and local agency records requests, conducted more than 100 interviews with experts and the families of missing people and victims, and examined thousands of pages of case files from across the country. "[This] is something that’s going to need our attention forever," said Michael Murphy, who runs the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children's unknown victims unit. "It’s not something we can just throw a little bit of resources at and think it’s going to go away.”

Reveal reports that 1,881 cases in the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) were labeled homicides as of June; 5,517 cases involved unknown manners of death; and as of Aug. 1, 916 were children and young adult Jane and John Does. These unsolved cases involve a possible perpetrator on the loose. Since 2007, NamUs, with help from the Justice Department, runs a database that operates much like a dating site in an attempt to connect families with bodies. DNA, physical descriptions, photos, dates people went missing all help connect the dots. Even members of the public can search, but the system often goes unused due, Reveal reports, to "neglect, indifference and a lack of will by many state and local authorities—police, medical examiners and others." Read the exhaustive report, Left for Dead, in its entirety.

My Take on This Story
Show results without voting  |