If any good can come from tragedy this would be it. In 2004 a young man of 31, Bill Smolinski of Waterbury CT went missing from his home. Although Billy’s investigation was conducted by local, state and federal agencies, his family found that there were areas that created a lack in cross-agency communication. One such lack involved the fact that those on the missing person’s list were not matched to any unidentified remains at the coroners’ offices. That’s right. Despite seeing on TV that when someone goes missing the police immediately check all avenues to find the person, including the local morgue, it appears that has not been the case. And with an estimated 40,000 sets of unidentified unclaimed human remains being held at the coroner’s office or disposed of due to lack of identity, on a yearly basis that is a significant mistake. This practice means that many times the chance for closure, which may be found at a morgue, has been lost.
But thankfully with the passing of Billy’s Law, S5320 that practice will become a thing of the past. By matching these remains with those missing may create closure for families by providing them with a sad but needed resolution. Billy’s Law will increase best practices and close the loopholes that prevented needed accessibility to the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System by enabling data sharing between that system and the National Crime Information Center database of the FBI.
The Attorney General will maintain the “National Missing and Unidentified Persons System” or “NamUs”, and provide for an online database technology which serves as a national information clearinghouse to help expedite case associations and resolutions. It will also have technical assistance for family members of missing persons as well as assistance and training by coordinating State and local service providers in order to support individuals and families impacted by the loss or disappearance of a loved one. Other needed add-ons include:
(A) training and outreach from NamUs subject matter experts, including assistance with planning and facilitating Missing Person Day events across the country.
(B) to develop new technologies to facilitate timely data entry into the relevant data bases;
(C) to conduct contracting activities relevant to core NamUs services;
(D) to provide forensic analyses to support the identification of missing and unidentified persons, to include, but not limited to DNA typing, forensic odontology, fingerprint examination, and forensic anthropology;
(E) to train State, local, and Tribal law enforcement personnel and forensic medicine service providers to use NamUs resources and best practices for the investigation of missing and unidentified person cases;
(F) to assist States in providing information to the NCIC database, the NamUs database, or any future database system for missing, unidentified, and unclaimed person cases;
(G) to report to law enforcement authorities in the jurisdiction in which the remains were found information on every deceased, unidentified person, regardless of age;
(H) to participate in Missing Person Days and other events to directly support family members of the missing with NamUs case entries and DNA collections;
(I) to provide assistance and training by coordinating State and local service providers in order to support individuals and families;
(J) to conduct data analytics and research projects for the purpose of enhancing knowledge, best practices, and training related to missing and unidentified person cases, as well as developing NamUs system enhancements;
(K) to create and maintain a secure, online, nationwide critical incident response tool for professionals that will connect law enforcement, medico-legal and emergency management professionals, as well as victims and families during a critical incident; and
(L) for other purposes consistent with the goals of this section. NA typing, forensic odontology, fingerprint examination, and forensic anthropology;
Over 600,000 individuals go missing in the Us every year.
It is estimated that 4,400 unidentified bodies are recovered each year, with approximately 1,000 of those bodies remaining unidentified after one year.