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State Medical Examiner Provides Online Forms to Help Law Enforcement and Families in Missing Person Cases
03/05/2012
Dr. Nici Vance, PhD
Forensic Scientist / State Forensic Anthropologist
(971) 673-8300

To help develop leads using DNA analysis in missing person cases, the Oregon State Medical Examiner’s Office now has forms available on their website that are required for the successful submission of DNA samples. The forms must be submitted by law enforcement agencies, or families of missing persons that were reported to law enforcement, when sending samples to the University of North Texas Center for Human Identification, a state-of-the-art facility, federally funded to offer free DNA analysis.
 
According to Oregon State Medical Examiner Dr. Karen Gunson, the state medical examiner system is partners with the University of North Texas Center for Human Identification to supply leads from DNA analysis.
 
"Because the Oregon State Police Forensic Services Division doesn’t perform DNA analysis on missing person cases, our office put the required forms online to help facilitate the successful submission of DNA samples to the Center’s lab. We hope having these forms online can help the Center, families and investigators bring closure in cases that sadly ended in someone’s death," said Gunson.
 
On January 1, 2008, Oregon’s new "Missing Persons Law" went into effect providing that if a person was reported missing and hadn’t been found within 30 days following the report, the investigating law enforcement agency shall attempt to obtain a DNA sample for the missing person.
 
Gunson said DNA for a missing person investigation can be collected a couple ways. First, collect items used only by the missing person such as a tooth brush, razor, lipstick or a medical specimen preserved at a hospital. The second way is to collect oral swabs from family members. Law enforcement agencies have been provided special DNA collection kits called a Family Reference Standard Kit (FRS) to assist in DNA sample collection for these cases.
 
When submitted for analysis to the Center for Human Identification, one of the two forms is required to be sent with the collected samples:
  • The Family Reference Samples form is for law enforcement AND families when submitting biological samples (oral swabs, blood cards) from biological relatives of missing persons.
  • The Direct Reference Sample form is for any article associated with the missing person that may contain biological material (toothbrush, hairbrush with hair, blood sample, or hospital sample).
 
The forms are available on the State Medical Examiner’s website at:
http://www.oregon.gov/OSP/SME/index.shtml
 
On March 1, 2012, a check of the Law Enforcement Data System (LEDS) showed 1,047 missing person records. Those listed as missing include:
  • 4 people missing and believed to be the victim of a disaster.
  • 57 people missing of any age with a proven physical/mental disability, or who is senile, thereby subjecting himself/herself or others to immediate danger.
  • 300 people of any age missing under circumstances indicating his/her physical safety may be in danger (i.e., a person who goes to the store and does not return; a person goes on a trip but never arrives at the scheduled destination).
  • 114 people of any age that is missing under circumstances indicating that the disappearance was not voluntary.
  • 525 juveniles who are missing and do not qualify for entry in any other the above other categories (i.e., runaway).
  • 47 people missing whose circumstances do not fit into any other category.
 
Additional information providing assistance for relatives of missing persons, medical examiners and law enforcement agencies is available on the UNT CHI website at:
http://www.unthumanid.org/Forensics/Initiative/Collection.cfm.