The 81st Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2012)

Taking a second look: NamUs and unidentified skeletal remains cases in Utah


1Investigations, Utah Office of the Medical Examiner, 2Antiquities Section, Utah Division of State History

Thursday All day, Plaza Level Add to calendar

The National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) is a free database for missing persons and unidentified decedent records. The database compares information between the two groups for possible matches. The Utah Medical Examiner’s Office (OME) is entering all unidentified modern remains found inUtahinto NamUs. A total of seventeen unidentified skeletal cases are still held at the OME. Since many of these cases had questionable, little, or no anthropological analysis completed, it was decided to have a forensic anthropologist re-examine all seventeen cases to determine if the original case information was accurate before it was entered into NamUs.

The re-assessment of the cases proved interesting, as it resulted in over half being identified as archaeological or historic (>50 years). Of the seventeen cases, six were determined to be archaeological Native American, three were determined to be historic, and eight were determined to be modern and thus eligible for inclusion in NamUs. For example one that had been ruled a modern homicide in 1982 was determined to be a historic anatomic specimen. While, another that had originally been determined to be most likely archaeological Native American was determined to be a modern Hispanic. This poster will compare the original forensic analyses and the re-analyses with specific reference to the cases which resulted in a different temporal association or biological profile. The results of these re-analyses highlight the importance of having a competent forensic anthropologist analyze unidentified skeletal cold cases prior their inclusion in the NamUs and other similar databases.

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