The following post appears courtesy of the Office of Justice Programs.
In 1987 Paula Beverly Davis went missing from Kansas City, Missouri. She was 21, worked as a store clerk and had a 1-year old son. Later that year, police in Englewood, Ohio, found her remains but could not identify her. They called her Jane Doe, and buried her in a local graveyard.
Jump ahead to October 2009, when Davis’ younger sister, Stephanie Clack, was watching ABC’s “The Forgotten.” At the end of the show, ABC aired a public service announcement about a Justice Department Web site– www.NamUs.gov–designed to match records of missing persons with records from unidentified decedents. (“NamUs” stands for the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System.)
Ms. Clack started surfing www.NamUs.gov and found the record of a woman with tattoos that matched her sister’s tattoos. Authorities used DNA to confirm the match. Thanks to her sister’s search of NamUs and a television show’s public service announcement, Paula Davis’s remains are now going home. She will be buried next to her mother and grandmother in Kansas City.
NamUs is a free, online system. Medical examiners, coroners, law enforcement officials, the general public, families and loved ones can search www.NamUs.gov any time day or night from anywhere in the country—just as they may have searched newspapers or telephoned morgues looking for information. They are all part of the process, helping one another resolve cases involving missing persons and unidentified decedents.
A Bureau of Justice Statistics survey of the nation’s medical examiner and coroner offices found that in 2004 about half had no policy for retaining records (such as X-rays, DNA, or fingerprints) on unidentified human decedents.
The Department of Justice established NamUs to manage the overwhelming need for a central reporting system for unidentified human remains cases. The Web site was launched in 2007; it became fully operational in 2009. It is estimated that, nationwide, about 100,000 missing persons cases are active on any given day.
Read more about the Paula Beverly Davis case on the Kansas City blog.