When someone goes missing, it can be heart-wrenching for a family. Now there's a new push for a federal registry to track down missing people and give those families answers, with the help of two local women.
It's called the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) and part of the U.S. Department of Justice.
Right now, medical examiners can enter the DNA and information from an unidentified body there, and on the other end, family members can enter their DNA and missing loved one's information, hoping for a match.
But it is not mandatory, and backers are working to change that.
"I forget what her face and everything was," said Stephanie Clack, looking at photos of her sister Paula Davis, in her Independence home.
Davis was 21 when she went missing from Kansas City in 1987. Twenty-two years later, in 2009, Clack happened to see a PSA from the NamUs program and went to check the site.
"Searched it, within 30 minutes we had found our match of Paula," said Clack.
She'd been found murdered in Ohio, right after she disappeared. Coroners couldn't identify her, but they did eventually put her information in the NamUs system, providing the trail that finally led her family to her.
"It relieved a lot of the pain because now I don't have to wonder, is she out there," said Clack.
Now, Clack is in the latest NamUs PSA, backing a new push to make it mandatory to enter missing and unidentified persons into the registry nationwide.
"It has to be federal because when they go missing they can be anywhere," said Maureen Reintjes, the NamUs victim advocate for Kansas. She knows the pain of a missing loved one first-hand.
"I found out very fast that it's just a horribly broken system," said Reintjes.
Reintjes believes NamUs can be the fix - one registry to match DNA and dental records from the missing and the unidentified.
But right now, people are only entered if a coroner or medical examiner chooses to, and backers say that has to change, to end the torturing questions for too many families.
"It was hard, my mom and dad went through nervous breakdowns, depression, trying to figure out where their daughter went," said Clack. "I do have closure and our family has closure because we know where she's at now, we can go visit her at the cemetery. It's not the outcome we wanted, but it's some closure."
Democratic U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy from Connecticut is backing a bill to make the registry mandatory. Now supporters are asking everyone to call your Republican U.S. senators to ask them to co-sponsor it, to give it enough support.
Tuesday, July 22 2014 7:14 PM EDT2014-07-22 23:14:19 GMT
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