UNTHSC manages ‘one-stop shop’ for missing person cases

March 12, 2014

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For cold-case detective Stuart Somershoe, the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) is a “one-stop shop” for unsolved cases.

“We all have pieces of the puzzle,” said Somershoe, who works for the Phoenix Police Department. “Medical examiners have elements of these cases. Police have elements. The families have elements.

“NamUs invites us all together in order to solve these cases.”

With funding and oversight from the National Institute of Justice, UNT Health Science Center 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.

In many ways, NamUs is a perfect fit at UNTHSC, which runs a crime laboratory set in a graduate school for scientists and health care professionals. UNTHSC trains students in forensics and the use of DNA technologies to help solve crimes and identify the missing and unidentified.

It is one of only eight public- sector labs in the nation with a program dedicated to DNA testing for identifying missing persons and unknown victims. UNTHSC forensic experts routinely work with the FBI, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and hundreds of police agencies and medical examiners nationwide.

“Victims’ families wake up every day – year after year – not knowing where their loved ones are,” said Arthur Eisenberg, PhD, Chair of Molecular and Medical Genetics. “Our efforts through NamUs are aimed at helping families find answers.”

Diana Cervantes. Assistant Professor Biostatistics & Epidemiology
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