Friday, May 29, 2009

Every Day You Wait . . . Is One Day Longer

by Todd Matthews, Guest Contributor

If you have a missing loved one, not knowing what you can do about it is a huge challenge. Dealing with the situation on the usual day-to-day basis is overwhelming in itself. But not knowing what you can do to make sure all paths are being followed is another issue.

One thing you can do is to make sure your missing persons data is being properly reviewed.

Of course, the information contained in the missing person's NCIC case file is considered for law enforcement only. But rather than the usual phone call to the detective in charge of your missing loved one, maybe you can do some fact checking.

Normally the call consists of asking if there's any new info in regards to the investigation of the missing person. (More often than not, nothing has changed.) But since you may not have any idea of what is listed in the NCIC report, this might be a good time to do some fact checking. Ask the detective to confirm physical characteristics, height, weight, etc.

Do they have dental info listed? If not, do you have the dental info that you need to get to them for inclusion into the file? This is an extremely valuable piece of information! Have here been any DNA family reference samples taken? Mitochondrial and nuclear? Can you confirm the DNA has been included in the CODIS, the national DNA database?

Dates are important as well. There is no database in existence that is immune to human error. Why not double-check the dates involved such as date last seen and date of birth?. For example, numbers such as Social Security numbers are easy to mix up. Are there any birthmarks, tattoos, or other distinguishing characteristics that weren't noted? Do you have a photo that might be of value?

A simple-fact check review can't hurt anything, and might change everything. You are not asking for investigative information. You are asking to verify the very data you helped to provide. During the course of this conversation, it is a good time to ask your law enforcement contact to register as a
NamUs user.

Now is the time when you yourself can get the ball rolling by entering your own loved one into NamUs.
By doing this, a great deal of conversation in regards to your loved one's case begins.

I have seen simple human errors resolved in this manner. Some are minor and do not make an immediate difference, but they still affect the future. Some errors are fairly important and can have an immediate impact on resolution or on how the case is processed internally.

Once your loved one's case is in NamUs, you can work to help make sure all the gaps are filled with accurate information. The only thing worse that a lack of data is inaccurate data. Consider the tiniest details.

Todd Matthews' calling to be a voice for missing and unidentified persons began when he solved the identity of the "Tent Girl," Barbara Hackman-Taylor, after a ten-year journey that ended in 1998. He is also Media Director for the Doe Network, a consultant to Emmy-award winning producer Dick Wolf ("Law & Order"), and on the Advisory Panel for the U. S. Department of Justice NamUS (National Missing and Unidentified Persons System) database project. Todd also hosts a weekly radio show that publicizes unidentified and missing persons cases. A documentary featuring our guest contributor's work was recently broadcast on the BBC. A second documentary about his life is in post-production.


Anonymous said...

Hey Todd, good to see you here getting the important word out on missing persons and NamUs. Keep doin' what you're doin'.


California Girl said...

A relative of mine disappeared in 1979. I found a listing for an unidentified body that matched his less than a year ago. All the particulars matched, down to surgical scars. I contacted the coroner involved. He sent me an article he had written and basically blew off any information I gave him. According to him, it was up to the family to do all the leg work. He did nothing. My relative is still missing and that county still has an unidentified body that matches his description on file. Its no wonder there are so many missing and so many unidentified.

Todd Matthews said...

California Girl -- please send me your info and I'll see what I can do.