Backers of a proposal coming before a House committee this week say its passage could be the key to immediate answers for families not knowing what happened to a loved one who simply vanished.
House Bill 1716 would require that all law enforcement agencies in Missouri participate in the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, better known as NamUs. It is a nationwide database of cases of missing persons and unidentified human remains. Each case entry might include physical descriptions or DNA evidence, or both.
That database was launched in 2007. The more data is entered, the more open cases of unidentified bodies and missing persons can be advanced and even solved.
Many law enforcement agencies, however, still don’t enter their information on such cases into that database. Only 12 states require that the agencies within their borders participate. By proposing HB 1716, Representative Tricia Byrnes wants to bring Missouri into the fold.
NamUs currently records that there are about 120 unidentified bodies in Missouri, but the real number is likely far greater.
Getting all Missouri agencies to participate in NamUs would not only lead to answers in this state but anywhere in the U.S. Data in the System has resulted in connections that span multiple states, such as when a body found in 1982 in Arizona was just three years ago identified as that of a teen who disappeared from St. Louis in 1981. That case remains unsolved, but her family was “awestruck” to finally know what happened.
HB 1716 will be the subject of a hearing by the House Committee on Emerging Issues, on Wednesday.
HB 1716 would also require additional training for law enforcement on unidentified and missing persons cases; require that fingerprints from unidentified remains be submitted to the Highway Patrol and that a dental examination must be performed on remains; and that an unidentified person’s record in NamUs be created within 30 days of the discovery of such remains.