Helping families find missing loved ones
By Jeff Carlton
Other than her car keys, found dangling from her car door in the grocery store parking lot of a Skaggs Alpha Beta, there was no trace of this 44-year-old nurse, wife and mother of two. And it stayed that way for more than 30 years.
“We didn’t know anything. Not one thing,” said her daughter, Vicki Frost Curl, now 59.
For Curl, some answers would eventually come thanks to NamUs, the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, based at UNT Health Science Center.
Through its “Missing in North Texas” event, scheduled for June 4 at UNTHSC, NamUs is trying to reach even more families impacted by the disappearance of a missing loved one.
Family members are encouraged to bring any police reports, X-rays, dental information, fingerprint records or other documents related to their missing loved one for entry into the NamUs database. They can also provide DNA samples that can be used in the search for their missing person.
With funding and oversight from the National Institute of Justice, UNTHSC since 2011 has managed and expanded NamUs, a national clearinghouse for missing person cases, unidentified victims, unidentified living individuals and unclaimed bodies.
Medical examiners, coroners, law enforcement officers, family members of missing persons and concerned citizens can access varying levels of information on secure online databases to assist in resolving thousands of unsolved cases. NamUs provides data management, analytical support and forensic resources for missing and unidentified cases at no cost to investigating agencies and family members.
For Ms. Curl, NamUs was instrumental in helping her find answers about her missing mother.
After more than three decades with no progress, a breakthrough came in August 2013. An Oklahoma medical examiner was changing offices and moving furniture when she came across a 1983 autopsy report for unidentified remains found in Muskogee County, Okla.
The medical examiner entered the report into the unidentified persons section of the NamUs database. Less than a year later, an online hobbyist connected the new unidentified persons entry in NamUs to Frost’s missing persons entry. In December 2014, Curl’s son came across the web post and realized his grandmother’s remains had been found.
Frost had been buried in an unmarked pauper’s grave in Muskogee County. The remains were exhumed, and a DNA test confirmed her identity. She was reburied in McPherson, Kan., near where her daughter and grandsons now live.
Although her mother’s end is tragic, Curl says the discovery of her remains after three decades is astonishing.
“We call it a miracle,” Curl said. “It’s changed my life. I visit the cemetery all the time. I know where she is now.”