Do you have a family member who is missing? The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension would like to from relatives of missing persons as it works to identify human remains of 100 people.
Over the years, investigators have collected and held unidentified remains -- many of which were found decades ago before DNA testing technology was available.
The remains currently being tested were found in Minnesota from the 1970s to 1990s, and officials say a simple swab of the cheek could be all it takes to find out who those people are.
HOW IT WORKS
DNA obtained from the remains will be entered into the FBI's Combined DNA Index System where it can be compared with family DNA samples from across the nation.
"We could have a skull, we could have a full set of remains, there could be just a femur -- which is one of the leg bones," explained Catherine Knutson, forensic science lab director with the BCA. "It really runs the gamut."
For decades, many of the remains have simply been known as "the missing," but officials hope to match the remains with the names and faces of missing persons in unsolved cases across the country by getting new DNA samples from relatives.
"Now, we have specialized techniques that are designed specifically for these types of challenging samples, which is why we're moving forward with this project where we couldn't before," Knutson explained.
BCA officials stress that DNA collected from family members are only used for comparison to the DNA from unidentified remains and are not checked against any state or federal law enforcement databases.
The project is funded by a federal grant from the National Institute of Justice, and the DNA testing will continue over the next 18 months.
FAMILY HELP IS NEEDED
Thanks to advances in DNA-testing technology, lab technicians say they can use a sample from a relative to link the remains to a missing person's case.
"DNA from relatives can be very, very powerful with the types of DNA technology that we have available to us," Knutson said. "In many instances, it can prove to be the difference between whether or not someone is going to be unidentified or returned to their family."
The goal is to either identify all of Minnesota's unidentified remains or to derive DNA profiles which can be entered into the federal database for future comparisons -- but the BCA can't do it alone.
"Without the participation of family members, this effort cannot succeed. We need families to come forward -- no matter how long ago their loved one went missing." Knutson said. "We need to give these people back their names and get them back to their families."
While family members are being asked to submit their own DNA, they can also send personal items belonging to the missing person that may have a sample. Such items include:
- A lock of hair
- A tooth brush
- A razor
STEPS TO SUBMIT A SAMPLE
1. Start by contacting Minnesota Missing & Unidentified Persons Clearinghouse manager Kris Rush firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 651-793-1118. Be sure to have the missing person's name and date of birth. You will be guided through the necessary steps, including:
2. Confirm that a missing person report is on file with the local law enforcement agency, and that the information was entered into the FBI's NCIC missing person file.
3. Provide a DNA sample and sign a consent form.
4. If available, provide dental records, photos and any items which may contain the missing person's DNA.