Cold Cases: Forensic Experts Work to ID Unidentified Crime Victims
There are more than 400 people buried in the Harris County Pauper’s Cemetery just outside Houston who’ve never been identified. Forensic Anthropologists are using state of the art forensic technology to identify some of them, and, it is hoped, figure out how and why they died.
The review centers on cases from the late 1950s to the late 1990s, decades during which Jane and John Doe bodies were buried before collecting and recording DNA samples in national databanks became standard procedures at the county’s Institute of Forensic Sciences.
Harris County’s forensic anthropology director, Jennifer Love, known as “the Bone Detective,” will use a grant from the National Institute of Justice to exhume and identify at least 25 bodies.
The problem of identifying the dead goes far beyond Harris County. Across the country, an estimated 40,000 people are buried but unidentified. That means killers are never brought to justice, and families never learn what happened to their missing loved ones.
This national phenomenon has been dubbed “The Nation’s Silent Mass Disaster” by the National Institute of Justice.
Forensic anthropologists are asking the public to help in this investigation. In order to use newly collected DNA samples to restore identities, they’re asking relatives of long-lost or missing persons to provide names and DNA samples — which might match samples collected from corpses in the Pauper’s Cemetery.