Legally Dead But Still Alive: The Brenda Heist Missing Person Case

     In 2002, forty-three-year-old Brenda Heist and her husband Lee were going through an amicable divorce. The couple had two children, a daughter who was eight, and a twelve-year-old son. They lived in Lititz Borough, a small Lancaster…

     In 2002, forty-three-year-old Brenda Heist and her husband Lee were going through an amicable divorce. The couple had two children, a daughter who was eight, and a twelve-year-old son. They lived in Lititz Borough, a small Lancaster County town in southeastern Pennsylvania. Brenda worked as a bookkeeper at a local car dealership.

     In an effort to finance her own apartment, Brenda applied for state housing assistance. The agency denied her request. Depressed, overwhelmed, and distraught, Brenda, after driving the children to school one day in February 2002, drove to a nearby town and parked her car in a bus station lot. From there she walked to a park where she sat on a bench and cried.

     Brenda did not go back to her car and drive home that day. To her family and friends, and to the local police, she became a missing person.

     Four days after Brenda dropped her children off at school, police found her car parked in the bus station lot. When a mother takes her kids to school and doesn't return home, the police assume that she has been abducted. As days went by without anyone hearing from or seeing Brenda Heist, detectives began to think that she may have had been murdered. At this point the missing persons case turned into a homicide investigation. As in most missing wife cases, the suspicion in Brenda's disappearance fell on her husband.

     As psychic detectives and other whack-job callers flooded the Heist missing persons investigators with false leads, homicide investigators focused on Lee Heist as their primary murder suspect. Mr. Heist  had to quit his job. He ran into financial difficulties, and eventually lost his home. After several years as a suspect in his wife's disappearance and murder, investigators, after a series of polygraph tests, cleared Lee Heist of wrongdoing in the case. His wife remained missing, however, and was presumed dead.

     In 2008, the Lancaster County Major Crimes Unit began investigating the Brenda Heist disappearance as a cold-case murder. Two years later, Lee Heist petitioned a Lancaster County Court to declare his wife legally dead. With Brenda officially declared "missing and possibly deceased", Mr. Heist was able to marry another woman.

     As it turned out, while Lee Heist was put through hell as a suspect in his wife's murder, Brenda was alive in south Florida. On the day of her disappearance, she was approached by two men and a woman who saw her crying on the park bench. After she related her tale of woe, they invited her to join them on a hitchhiking trip to Florida. She accepted their offer.

     Brenda Heist spent her first two years in Key Largo, Florida living under bridges and eating restaurant garbage. She entered a new phase in her life when she moved into a camp trailer with a man she met on the street. For the next seven years Brenda lived with this man in Key West. They both worked as day laborers cleaning boats and doing odd jobs for cash.

     In 2011, after her relationship with her trailer roommate soured, Brenda was back on the street. She worked odd jobs and hung out on the beach. In December 2012, under her alias Kelsie Lyanne Smith, Brenda got a job as a live-in housekeeper for a family in Tampa Bay. (According to her employer she had good references.)

      A few months after landing the housekeepers job, a police pulled Brenda over for driving with an expired license plate. The officer found drugs in her car. She served two months in Pensacola County Jail on the drug possession offense. Following her release from jail, she spent a few weeks behind bars in Santa Rosa County on an identify theft charge. At one point she lived in a tent community run by a Florida social service agency.

     On Friday, April 26, 2013, Brenda Heist surrendered herself to the Monroe County Sheriff's Office. Thinking that there were warrants for her arrest out of Pinellas County, the 54-yar-old told the Monroe County deputies that she was at the end of her rope, and tired of running. She informed the officers that eleven years ago she had walked out on her family in Lititz Borough, Pennsylvania.

     The Florida authorities called Lititz Borough Sergeant John Schofield with the news that Brenda Heist was not dead, and no longer missing. Her children, now college students, still had a mother.

     On May 3, 2013, Brenda was sent back to the Santa Rosa County Jail on various theft related charges. Morgan Heist, her 19-year-old daughter, has told reporters that she has no interest in reuniting with her mother.

     On June 11, 2013 a judge in Pensacola, Florida sentenced Heist, known in the Santa Rose court system as Kelsie Smith, to one year in jail in connection a probation violation. She pleaded no contest to failing to check in with authorities after leaving the Pensacola area following her release from jail in April. She'd been on probation for using someone else's identification during a traffic stop.
     

from http://jimfishertruecrime.blogspot.com/

45 Missing Kid Cases Daily Involve Suspected Abductions

Publicity over the search for missing University of Iowa student Mollie Tibbetts has focused on a high number of missing juveniles in Iowa, 48 in July. Only a small number of missing children cases involve abductions.

As the search for missing University of Iowa student Mollie Tibbetts continues, 48 Iowa juveniles have went missing so far in July, a development that has prompted a flood of social media warnings and theories, reports the Sioux Falls, S.D., Argus Leader. Heavy news coverage of Tibbetts’ disappearance from Brooklyn, Ia., 60 miles east of Des Moines, has led to more focus on missing children. Last year, 4,311 Iowa juveniles were reported missing to the national missing persons clearinghouse, about 12 kids a day. Most of them are believed to have run away. And a single juvenile can be listed in several cases throughout the year.

The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children assisted law enforcement and families in more than 27,000 cases of missing children last year. That averages about 75 a day. More than 9 in 10 were runaways, and 1 in 7 of those youth were likely victims of sex trafficking, the center said. Of those, 88 percent were in the care of social services when they went missing. Strangers kidnap about 100 children annually, a fraction of 1 percent of missing-children cases, according to the Polly Klaas Foundation, a Petaluma, Ca.  nonprofit. Klaas, 12, was kidnapped Oct. 1, 1993, from her home; her body was found two months later. The FBI’s National Crime Information Center says that 2.5 percent of more than 650,000 missing children cases opened last year involved suspected abductions, a little more than 45 a day nationwide.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Kenia Monge Disappearance: Turns Out ‘Good Samaritan’ Travis Forbes is a Pervert

  ​ Breakfast reading from the True Crime Report archives: Surveillance video showed Forbes turning off the cameras at a bakery where he rents space. And a neighboring employee saw several men burning something in a 55-gallon barrel behind the bakery. Westword has the story.

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  ​ Breakfast reading from the True Crime Report archives: Surveillance video showed Forbes turning off the cameras at a bakery where he rents space. And a neighboring employee saw several men burning something in a 55-gallon barrel behind the bakery. Westword has the story.

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from http://www.truecrimereport.com

The Man Who Kidnapped Himself

     On Thursday October 23, 2014, Paul Kitterman, a 53-year-old construction worker from Kremmling, Colorado, a town 100 miles north of Denver, was in the mile high city with his stepson and two of his stepson’s friends to watch a Bronc…

     On Thursday October 23, 2014, Paul Kitterman, a 53-year-old construction worker from Kremmling, Colorado, a town 100 miles north of Denver, was in the mile high city with his stepson and two of his stepson's friends to watch a Broncos-San Diego Charges football game. Mr. Kitterman and his 22-year-old stepson, Jarod Tonneson, were seated in the stadium's south bleachers section. They were among 70,000 fans attending the game. Tonneson's friends watched the game from another part of the Sports Authority Field.

     At the beginning of the third quarter, Tonneson and his stepfather visited the public restroom. When Tonneson came out of the men's room, Mr. Kitterman was not there waiting for him as agreed upon. The stepfather was not in the restroom and had not returned to his seat in Section 230.

     Jarod Tonneson and his friends searched the stadium inside and out until one-thirty the next morning. They found no trace of the man who had accompanied them to the game. Mr. Kitterman, without possession of a cellphone or credit cards, had simply vanished. He had been carrying about $50 in cash.

     Mr. Kitterman had not been intoxicated and was not suffering from a mental problem. This raised the possibility that someone had kidnapped him. Or perhaps he had just gotten sick or lost in the stadium. There seemed to be no other logical explanations for his disappearance. The concerned stepson filed a missing person report with the Denver Police Department.

     On Monday October 27, 2014, a police spokesperson announced that a football fan had seen Mr. Kitterman in the stadium during the third quarter, but the witness couldn't remember where in the stadium he had seen him. Investigators viewed hours and hours of stadium surveillance video footage for clues regarding the missing man's whereabouts. In the meantime, the stepson and his friends posted fliers around the city of Denver.

     On Tuesday night October 28, 2014, someone called the police in Pueblo, Colorado regarding a man believed to be Mr. Kitterman. Shortly after the call, five days after he had gone missing from the football stadium located 112 miles north of Pueblo, police officers found Mr. Kitterman in a K-Mart parking lot.

     Paul Kitterman had not been the victim of foul play and other than being tired, he was in good physical condition. The object of the five-day missing persons search told officers that he had walked and hitchhiked to the city of Pueblo. He said he slept in parks and wooded areas. Along the way he had disposed of his Broncos hat to avoid being recognized. He apparently had not wanted to be found.

     Detectives asked Mr. Kitterman the question that was on everybody's mind: Why did he slip away from his stepson and travel to Pueblo, Colorado? Surely he knew that walking off like that would trigger a police manhunt and cause his friends and family a lot of stress.

     Mr. Kitterman told the officers that because he hadn't watched television for five days, he had no idea people were looking for him. When asked to explain why he had made himself a missing person, Mr. Kitterman said he had gotten his "fill of football" and simply wanted to walk to someplace warmer.

     Because the missing man's actions reflect some form or degree of dementia, the authorities in Denver had no plans to file charges against him. And even if he was of sound mind, what crime did he commit? You don't go to prison for kidnapping yourself. 

from http://jimfishertruecrime.blogspot.com/

The Petra Pazsitka Lost And Found Case

     In 1984, when 24-year-old Petra Pazsitka, a computer science student attending college in Braunschweig, Germany, failed to show up at her brother’s birthday party, her parents reported her missing. The police in this northern German…

     In 1984, when 24-year-old Petra Pazsitka, a computer science student attending college in Braunschweig, Germany, failed to show up at her brother's birthday party, her parents reported her missing. The police in this northern German city launched a massive hunt.

     About a year after the student's disappearance, the missing persons case was featured on a popular German television crime show. The public exposure did not create any tips that led to Pazsitka's recovery.

     Not long after the airing of the TV segment, a man named Gunter confessed to the rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl from the neighborhood where Pazsitka had disappeared. This man also confessed to kidnapping and murdering the missing college student. But after Gunter was unable to lead homicide investigators to Pazsitka's body, the suspect took back his confession and that case was closed.

     In 1989, five years after Pazsitka's disappearance, she was officially declared dead even though her body had not been recovered.

     In September 2015, police in Dusseldorf, Germany were called to an apartment to investigate a burglary. At the scene they spoke to the victim tenant, a 54-year-old woman who identified herself as Mrs. Schneider. Investigators, when they learned that Mrs. Schneider didn't possess a driver's license, social security card, passport, or bank account, or any other form of personal identification, turned their attention on her.

     As it turned out, Mrs. Schneider was Petra Pazsitka. After staging her disappearance 30 years ago, Pazsitka lived in several German cities under numerous assumed names. She paid all of her bills with cash and didn't drive a car.

     When detectives asked Pazsitka the obvious question of why she had voluntarily disappeared, causing a massive police hunt as well as pain and suffering for her family, she said she had wanted to start a new life. She offered no explanation beyond that. Her father had since died. When asked if she wanted to reunite with her mother and brother, she said she did not.

from http://jimfishertruecrime.blogspot.com/

Donthe Lucas Finally Arrested in Alleged Murder of Missing, Pregnant GF Kelsie Schelling

Reading from the Voice Media empire: Barely two weeks after Donthe Lucas was arrested on robbery charges, the former basketball star was served with an arrest warrant in the February 2013 disappearance of Kelsie Schelling, who vanished after telling her boyfriend, Lucas, that she was pregnant. The bust took place on the same day his mom, Sara Lucas, was taken into […]

The post Donthe Lucas Finally Arrested in Alleged Murder of Missing, Pregnant GF Kelsie Schelling appeared first on True Crime Report.

Reading from the Voice Media empire: Barely two weeks after Donthe Lucas was arrested on robbery charges, the former basketball star was served with an arrest warrant in the February 2013 disappearance of Kelsie Schelling, who vanished after telling her boyfriend, Lucas, that she was pregnant. The bust took place on the same day his mom, Sara Lucas, was taken into [...]

The post Donthe Lucas Finally Arrested in Alleged Murder of Missing, Pregnant GF Kelsie Schelling appeared first on True Crime Report.

from http://www.truecrimereport.com

Donthe Lucas Arrested — but Not for Missing Kelsie Schelling Case

Reading from the Voice Media empire:  Authorites recently conducted a new series of searches in the case of Kelsie Schelling, a 21-year-old who vanished more than four years ago after telling her boyfriend, Donthe Lucas, that she was pregnant. The searches focused on locations associated with Lucas, a person of interest in Schelling’s disappearance, and while they turned up no new […]

The post Donthe Lucas Arrested — but Not for Missing Kelsie Schelling Case appeared first on True Crime Report.

Reading from the Voice Media empire:  Authorites recently conducted a new series of searches in the case of Kelsie Schelling, a 21-year-old who vanished more than four years ago after telling her boyfriend, Donthe Lucas, that she was pregnant. The searches focused on locations associated with Lucas, a person of interest in Schelling’s disappearance, and while they turned up no new [...]

The post Donthe Lucas Arrested — but Not for Missing Kelsie Schelling Case appeared first on True Crime Report.

from http://www.truecrimereport.com

The Lisa Irwin Missing Person Case

     In Kansas City, Missouri, during the early morning hours of October 4, 2011, Jeremy Irwin told the police he had gone into his 10-month-old daughter’s room and found her missing from the crib. He said he had last seen the baby, Lisa Irwin, around 10:30 the previous night. When he arrived home from work the next morning (he worked the 11 PM to 3 AM shift), he found his front door unlocked and most of the inside lights on. He had also discovered, he said, an open front window, presumably the kidnapper’s point of entry.

     The missing baby’s mother, Deborah Bradley, at home that night, had put the baby to bed. She and her husband had not called the police immediately upon discovering the crime because, according to their stories, someone, presumably the intruder, had stolen their three cellphones. On Friday, October 7, 2011, Bradley, appearing on “The Today Show,” said that on Thursday the police had informed her she had failed a polygraph test. At that point the parents stopped cooperating with the authorities investigating the abduction of their daughter.  In the meantime, local police and FBI agents were searching for the missing child.

     According to the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire, during the past thirty years, 278 infants have gone missing. Only thirteen of these babies were abducted by intruders. Every year about 1,500 children are killed by their parents.

     It has not always been the case that babies stolen by strangers was a rarity. During the 1920s, kids from wealthy families were regularly kidnapped by organized racketeers who returned the children after receiving the ransom money. The families, relieved to have their infants back, rarely reported the crimes. The so-called “snatch racket” ended after the Lindbergh case in 1932. Following the intruder abduction of 20-month-old Charles Lindbergh, Jr., kidnapping became a federal offense investigated by the FBI. Today, kidnapping for ransom, committed by stupid people who almost always get caught when they show up for the ransom money, is a relatively uncommon crime.

     On October 18, 2011, while appearing on three national television shows, Deborah Bradley informed her interviewers that she was drunk and on anxiety medicine the night her baby was abducted. Perhaps she had blacked out. Bradley also changed her story as to when she last saw Lisa. She now said she last saw the infant at 6:40 PM. This meant the baby could have been snatched anytime between 6:40 PM and 4:00 AM the next morning.  She had also retained a celebrity defense attorney and had a private investigator working on the case.

     In January 2012, Deborah Bradley and Jeremy Irwin appeared on the “Dr. Phil” television show. The mother pleaded with the abductor to return her child. “Nobody takes a baby to hurt her,” Bradley said. “She’s coming home.” The couple also reiterated their previous denials that they had anything to do with their daughter’s disappearance.

     A month after appearing on “Dr. Phil,” Bradley told an Associated Press reporter that, “She’s out there somewhere, and I am desperate to find her…I just want my daughter home. People don’t understand just how difficult it is to wake up and find out that someone has come into your house and taken your baby, and then you are accused of doing something to her or covering something up.”

     In early February 2012, detectives had their first interview with the couple since they questioned them on October 8, 2011. According to a spokesperson with the Kansas City Police Department, the interview didn’t produce anything new.

     Notwithstanding a $100,000 reward offered by an anonymous benefactor and the running down of 1,500 leads generated by the TIPS Hotline, Lisa Irwin’s whereabouts was still a mystery. As the volume of investigative tips faded, detectives returned to working on other cases.

     In December 2014, a former CIA interrogator questioned Deborah Bradley and Jeremy Irwin and concluded they did not exhibit any behavioral signs of deception when they denied involvement in the disappearance of their daughter. However, many people familiar with the case, inside law enforcement and out, still considered Deborah Bradley a viable suspect who had not revealed everything she knew about what happened to Lisa Irwin. 

     In Kansas City, Missouri, during the early morning hours of October 4, 2011, Jeremy Irwin told the police he had gone into his 10-month-old daughter's room and found her missing from the crib. He said he had last seen the baby, Lisa Irwin, around 10:30 the previous night. When he arrived home from work the next morning (he worked the 11 PM to 3 AM shift), he found his front door unlocked and most of the inside lights on. He had also discovered, he said, an open front window, presumably the kidnapper's point of entry.

     The missing baby's mother, Deborah Bradley, at home that night, had put the baby to bed. She and her husband had not called the police immediately upon discovering the crime because, according to their stories, someone, presumably the intruder, had stolen their three cellphones. On Friday, October 7, 2011, Bradley, appearing on "The Today Show," said that on Thursday the police had informed her she had failed a polygraph test. At that point the parents stopped cooperating with the authorities investigating the abduction of their daughter.  In the meantime, local police and FBI agents were searching for the missing child.

     According to the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire, during the past thirty years, 278 infants have gone missing. Only thirteen of these babies were abducted by intruders. Every year about 1,500 children are killed by their parents.

     It has not always been the case that babies stolen by strangers was a rarity. During the 1920s, kids from wealthy families were regularly kidnapped by organized racketeers who returned the children after receiving the ransom money. The families, relieved to have their infants back, rarely reported the crimes. The so-called "snatch racket" ended after the Lindbergh case in 1932. Following the intruder abduction of 20-month-old Charles Lindbergh, Jr., kidnapping became a federal offense investigated by the FBI. Today, kidnapping for ransom, committed by stupid people who almost always get caught when they show up for the ransom money, is a relatively uncommon crime.

     On October 18, 2011, while appearing on three national television shows, Deborah Bradley informed her interviewers that she was drunk and on anxiety medicine the night her baby was abducted. Perhaps she had blacked out. Bradley also changed her story as to when she last saw Lisa. She now said she last saw the infant at 6:40 PM. This meant the baby could have been snatched anytime between 6:40 PM and 4:00 AM the next morning.  She had also retained a celebrity defense attorney and had a private investigator working on the case.

     In January 2012, Deborah Bradley and Jeremy Irwin appeared on the "Dr. Phil" television show. The mother pleaded with the abductor to return her child. "Nobody takes a baby to hurt her," Bradley said. "She's coming home." The couple also reiterated their previous denials that they had anything to do with their daughter's disappearance.

     A month after appearing on "Dr. Phil," Bradley told an Associated Press reporter that, "She's out there somewhere, and I am desperate to find her…I just want my daughter home. People don't understand just how difficult it is to wake up and find out that someone has come into your house and taken your baby, and then you are accused of doing something to her or covering something up."

     In early February 2012, detectives had their first interview with the couple since they questioned them on October 8, 2011. According to a spokesperson with the Kansas City Police Department, the interview didn't produce anything new.

     Notwithstanding a $100,000 reward offered by an anonymous benefactor and the running down of 1,500 leads generated by the TIPS Hotline, Lisa Irwin's whereabouts was still a mystery. As the volume of investigative tips faded, detectives returned to working on other cases.

     In December 2014, a former CIA interrogator questioned Deborah Bradley and Jeremy Irwin and concluded they did not exhibit any behavioral signs of deception when they denied involvement in the disappearance of their daughter. However, many people familiar with the case, inside law enforcement and out, still considered Deborah Bradley a viable suspect who had not revealed everything she knew about what happened to Lisa Irwin. 

from http://jimfishertruecrime.blogspot.com/

Kelsie Schelling Search: New Hope, New Leads

Reading from the Voice Media empire: In recent days, authorized renewed a search for Kelsie Schelling, a 21-year-old woman who went missing more than four years ago after learning she was pregnant. The latest operation, prompted by what are described as new leads, continued increased activity over recent months and follows an apparent attempt to burn down the home of Donthe […]

The post Kelsie Schelling Search: New Hope, New Leads appeared first on True Crime Report.

Reading from the Voice Media empire: In recent days, authorized renewed a search for Kelsie Schelling, a 21-year-old woman who went missing more than four years ago after learning she was pregnant. The latest operation, prompted by what are described as new leads, continued increased activity over recent months and follows an apparent attempt to burn down the home of Donthe [...]

The post Kelsie Schelling Search: New Hope, New Leads appeared first on True Crime Report.

from http://www.truecrimereport.com

How to Tackle the Nation’s Missing Persons Challenge

A federally funded database called NamUs provides free forensic and analytical resources for missing, unidentified and unclaimed person cases. But unless all states make it mandatory for use by local authorities, its full potential won’t be realized, say three Florida researchers.

On any given day in the United States, there are close to 100,000 active missing persons entries in the FBI’s National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database.

Approximately 4,400 unidentified human remains will be recovered every year, on top of the 40,000 that currently exist nationally.

These numbers are only estimates, because there has not been a national endeavor to locate and track unidentified decedents from years past. Many of these cases slipped through the cracks because they either were never entered in NCIC or investigative efforts ended prematurely—or both—which means that many victims have been cremated or are lying in unmarked graves.

These long-term cases are often fraught with errors, as science and investigative methods have changed over the decades. The degree to which old cases are updated to current standards is highly variable across jurisdictions.

Erin Kimmerle

This has generated an enormous problem: The number of missing and unidentified persons is beyond the capability of the majority of law enforcement and medical examiners/coroners to identify these individuals and reunite them with their families.

In order to help solve these cases, there are a number of tools and resources in place, but one of the most effective is the federally funded program called NamUs, which provides an invaluable, free resource that has been proven to work.

NamUs, an acronym for the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, operated by the National Institute of Justice, is a resource center housing a database of missing persons and unidentified decedent records across the U.S.

It comprises three databases: The Missing Persons Database, the Unidentified Persons Database and the Unclaimed Persons Database.

Thomas McAndrew

In addition to being a data clearing-house, NamUs provides free forensic and analytical resources for missing, unidentified and unclaimed person cases. It’s a free online system that can be searched by medical examiners, coroners, law enforcement officials and the general public (including victim’s families) from all over the country in hopes of resolving these cases.

When a new missing person or unidentified decedent case is entered into NamUs, the system automatically performs cross-matching comparisons between the databases, searching for matches or similarities among cases. The system also has an advanced search feature that allows for public users as well as law enforcement, medical examiners and coroners to locate potential matches based on unique features, such as scars, marks, tattoos, jewelry, skeletal or biometric information, and other physical descriptions.

But the system can accomplish so much more if it is used to its fullest potential.

Currently, the use of this tool is voluntary. In Florida, for example the NCIC lists 3,233 missing persons and 783 unidentified persons. However, the NamUs system reports only 1,086 missing cases and exceeds NCIC with 870 unidentified person’s cases.

James Markey

These cases will only be solved if we know who we are looking for and if all available resources and tools are deployed to ensure each case has its best chance at being solved.

Many medical examiner and coroner’s offices around the country do not have access to NCIC. Having an online database is therefore crucial. The public user interface brings awareness and rejuvenates cold cases for possible new leads. It provides free resources and services for cases in NamUs that would not otherwise be available to some agencies.

The public user interface is also a successful tool for families searching for their loved ones based on unique characteristics. The different access levels for public and criminal justice personnel allow for detailed investigative notes and the results of forensic analysis to be hidden from public view.

It offers internet accessibility and ease of use for all users as it streamlines case management by serving as a single source for all case information and digital images. Comprehensive case reports and Missing Person Posters are accessible to print out and customized per user type. Geo-mapping helps to find the closest resources available. Geo-mapping is also available for cases that are returned as a result of an advanced search.

 And it’s cost-efficient.

Some have argued that this tool creates a burden for busy and resource-strapped investigators. But it is actually a tool that helps save time and money by solving cases. The free resources available include training on how to use NamUs and technical support for adding entries.

NamUs is currently undergoing a re-build/upgrade into the NamUs 2.0 system. The upgrade will have a mechanism to allow for data exchange between agencies and in some instances even state databases. Data exchange between NamUs and NCIC is prohibited by federal legislation that the FBI must follow with regard to the data contained in the NCIC system.

Therefore, the only current way to ensure effective use of the NamUs Program – for all users to help solve cases—is for each agency to enter its own cases. NCIC data is limited in nature compared to NamUs data fields and therefore a case will still need enhancements once imported from NCIC.

These barriers need to be addressed. All law enforcement agencies and medical examiners/coroners should be required by law and/or state policy to use NamUs for long-term Missing and Unidentified individuals.

New York, Ohio, Connecticut, and Tennessee already have state laws requiring the use of NamUs. California’s Penal Code states that the clearinghouse must share data with NamUs. There are similar proposals in other states as well, but all state legislatures should be concerned that missing- and unidentified-persons cases have their best chance at being solved.

At a minimum, effective legislation should require:

  • that human remains of unknown unidentified persons are not destroyed (i.e. cremated);
  • that biometric data is collected and tested to aid with identification; and
  • that the NamUs entries be mandatory.

Furthermore, in regards to long-term missing person cases, law enforcement should be required to obtain family reference samples for entry into the national DNA database.

If the systems that have been put in place are used to their fullest potential, the unidentified stand a much better chance of being given back their name.

Erin Kimmerle, PhD. Thomas C. McAndrew, M.A.,and James Markey, M.Ed. are co-founders of TANC (Time to Address the Nation’s Cold Cases), a think tank dedicated to addressing policy issues related to unresolved violent crime investigations. Kimmerle and McAndrew are on the faculty of the Florida Institute for Forensic Anthropology & Applied Sciences at the University of South Florida. Markey is a retired Phoenix police officer on appointment to the University of South Florida. To learn more, please visit www.forensics.usf.edu or visit their blog at www.coldcasetanc.blogspot.com. Readers comments are welcome.

from https://thecrimereport.org