NAMUS database links missing people with unidentified bodies to offer closure to grieving families

NAMUS database links missing people and unidentified bodies

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - The national database NAMUS has one mission: to connect missing persons cases with unidentified bodies around the country.

It has succeeded in that mission, including cases in Ohio. In 2003, two women in Florida asked their local law enforcement agency to submit their DNA profiles to the NAMUS website, hoping to find their mother, who had been missing for more than 20 years.

Then they got a match. There was a body discovered at an Austintown truck stop in 1992. Her DNA connected to her daughters', and the long-time Jane Doe was reunited with her name, Sharon Kedzierski.

In Cuyahoga County, there are six individuals listed as unidentified in the NAMUS database, many of them found several years ago.

“We have individuals from this office going back to the 70s and 80s, who we just don’t know who they are,” said Dr. Thomas Gilson, of the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner’s Office.

He says they have had some success using NAMUS, which allows law enforcement officers and pathologists to add information both about missing persons cases and unidentified bodies. They can also submit physical evidence, like DNA and fingerprints if it's available. That can help link people through familial relationships.

Dr. Gilson says there are far fewer unidentified bodies in Cuyahoga County than we would expect to see in a larger area. However, he says it's important to keep working to match these people with their identities, to help bring their loved ones some closure.

“They never give up hope,” he said. “We’ve had a couple of cases through NAMUS where we’ve been able to give that closure, you know, we don’t have good news for you, but at least we have some final news for you.”

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