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TMCNet:  New website will track unnamed dead

[November 04, 2007]

New website will track unnamed dead

(St. Louis Post-Dispatch (KRT) Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge) Nov. 4--Even in the age of high-tech police work, medical examiners from coast to coast have a lot of old and new cases of unidentified remains.

Some of the dead were already cremated or buried anonymously. Others remain in morgues, waiting.

According to a 2004 study by the U.S. Bureau of Justice Services, medical examiners and coroners reported that they handle about 4,400 unidentified remains in a typical year, of which about 1,000 were still unidentified after one year.

The U.S. Department of Justice in July launched a website that aims to be a better tool for authorities to identify those remains.

The first such national online repository, the site is www.NamUs.gov. It will have a database on unidentified dead and a database of missing people.

Several hundred unidentified dead are in the database now, and the agency hopes to have all the estimated 16,000 to 40,000 cases from around the country in the database by 2009, said Kevin Lothridge, executive director of the Florida-based National Forensic Science Technology Center.


Some cases are decades old.

Lothridge's group got a federal grant to carry out the program, the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System.

"That was the power of this -- that you'll have more people than just police looking at this," Lothridge said. "You'll have the public, medical examiners and coroners, using this one set of tools."

Todd Matthews, a Tennessee man who is on an advisory panel for this Department of Justice endeavor, said it should help speed up identification and solve cases.

Matthews has long argued for a centralized system like NamUs. He said police agencies put details of their unidentified dead in the National Crime Information Center, which only law enforcement can access. Because participation is voluntary on adult cases, Matthews said, the information on NCIC may account for only half of the actual cases.

To see more of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.stltoday.com.

Copyright (c) 2007, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
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