NamUs = Naming the Nameless and Finding the Missing

New Path To Restore Identities Of Missing

Web Site Combines Details of Remains, Disappearances

Washington Post Staff Writer Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Authorities in Virginia have identified the body of a teenager who went missing 14 years ago in their first success using a new nationwide database that seeks to put names on thousands of dead people who have gone unidentified, sometimes for decades.

Prosecutors in Maryland hope to use the same system to finally close a homicide case that has resulted in a mistrial and a hung jury.

The U.S. Department of Justice's National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, or NamUs, is an online tool aimed at naming the countless John and Jane Does whose remains have been shelved in the offices of medical examiners and police forensic labs across the country. It matches missing persons cases with the nameless bodies or skeletons.

Police, medical examiners, coroners and family members all have access to the database, and they try to take information from the years-old missing persons reports and match them to details from the dead bodies.

In the Virginia case, a detailed description of Toussaint Gumbs's body -- down to a scar on the 16-year-old's thigh -- was entered on the site. A volunteer surfing the Web flagged the similarities with reports of Toussaint's disappearance in Richmond. Using the latest DNA technology, officials helped confirm the teenager's death and finally gave his family an answer.

For Robert Gumbs, who was convinced that his son had gotten into drugs and run off with friends, the truth brought pain but also a chance to mourn.

"I just started screaming in my room," said Gumbs, who lives in New York and learned of his son's death in recent weeks. "I never thought that he was dead. The last words he said to me was, 'Pop, I'll be right back, because we have to talk.' "

Kristina Rose, acting director of the National Institute of Justice, said the potential for NamUs is extraordinary. "Instead of having this fragmented system where people go to coroners, to medical examiners, to law enforcement, we have everything in a central repository," she said. "People can participate in identifying their loved ones. They are the ones who are going to work late into the night to go through the case files."

Each year, about 4,400 sets of unidentified human remains turn up in parks, woods, abandoned houses and other places, according to a 2007 federal report. Although authorities quickly identify most of them, about 1,000 are still unknown a year later. Estimates of the total vary widely, from 13,500 to 40,000.

The Web site linking the rolls of the missing with the descriptions of the dead is growing daily as authorities and family members add entries. It is a sad catalogue of clues, some gruesome, some mundane. A woman who died in Rock Creek Park in February 2008 carried lip balm and a bag of wrapped hard candy in the pocket of her blue winter coat. A young man killed in a fiery 1983 car crash in Montgomery County had a mustache. In 1976, a woman's headless, fingerless body, naked and bound, washed up on an island in the Chesapeake Bay.

"There are mothers and fathers that, for years, wake up every day wanting to know what happened to their child. That's why we do this," said Arthur Eisenberg, co-director of the University of North Texas Center for Human Identification, which works to identify remains and provides free DNA testing to family members of the missing.

The database gives hope to people such as Darlene Huntsman, who has never stopped searching for her sister, Bernadette Caruso. One day in 1986, Caruso, among the more than 100,500 people reported missing nationwide as of this month, left her job at a Baltimore County jewelry store. The young mother has not been seen by her family since.

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Comment by Sara Huizenga on July 8, 2010 at 6:48pm


Please take a moment to share why you support Billy's Law at link below ...
http://peace4missing.ning.com/profiles/blogs/speak-out-and-speak-up...
Comment by Sara Huizenga on July 28, 2009 at 11:13am
LOL, Chaddy! LOL!!!!

NamUs = Blessing, definitely, I most certainly agree... ;)
Comment by Chad Scott on July 28, 2009 at 11:02am
Does anyone know where I can get one of those big foam hands with a finger sticking up that says NamUs? Since I live in Michigan (Detroit Lions) I would love to be the number one fan of a winning team (NamUs).
Comment by Sarah Teague on July 28, 2009 at 8:51am
Right now there are remains that were found near Indianapolis. I am waiting as many others are to find out the identity of these remains. Over the past almost 14 yrs., there have been many times I have waited and wondered if bones or a body could be my Heather. It's not an easy wait. When the remains are identified tho', my heart rejoices that someone's baby has come home. I know someday will be my day when my Heather is found. NamUs is a blessing, aren't they?
Comment by John Quinn on July 28, 2009 at 2:08am
I am so happy NamUs is flourishing !! Now..more people will begin to use it..then more and more and so on.Hopefully we will be able to match all of the "DOES" "BIG HUGS....ALWAYS".....john
Comment by Stephanie Thompson on July 28, 2009 at 1:48am
Huge fan of Namus here!!!
Comment by Maureen Reintjes-Peace4 Admin on July 28, 2009 at 1:42am
Kristina Rose, acting director of the National Institute of Justice, said the potential for NamUs is extraordinary. "Instead of having this fragmented system where people go to coroners, to medical examiners, to law enforcement, we have everything in a central repository," she said. "People can participate in identifying their loved ones. They are the ones who are going to work late into the night to go through the case files."

LOVE IT...says it all!

Maureen
Comment by Sara Huizenga on July 28, 2009 at 1:09am
NamUs is THE EPITOME of working together in the missing persons field...so excited to see it flourish... = )

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