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The Florida Missing and Unidentified Persons Cold Case Program

Award Information

Award #
Funding Category
Awardee County
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2015, $386,537)

There are over 200 missing persons presumed victims of homicide and more than 850
unidentified individuals in Florida. Complicating this problem is the lack of dedicated personnel and disassociation of collaborative partnerships among medical examiners, forensic anthropologists,
and detectives resulting in a growing number of unsolved cases. The purpose of this project is to identify and perform a number of laboratory tests and through partnerships with regional law enforcement and medical examiners, to significantly impact the number of missing persons and unidentified individuals so that more of these people are identified and returned to their
families. More specifically, the goals of this program are to 1) perform Autosomal STR (Short Tandem Repeat) and Mitochondrial DNA testing for identification; 2) run Y-STR
familial DNA searches for select, qualified male juvenile cases; and 3) conduct forensic
anthropological examinations, including osteological analysis, facial and clothing reconstructions, and chemical isotope analysis.
This is the first time that Y-STR familial DNA searches are being used in Florida to systematically identify unknown persons. The partnership includes universities, federal NGOs, DNA labs, regional sheriff’s offices and medical examiner departments and builds on a successful regional program in
this area operating for the past eight years. Collaboration among the partnering agencies and USF will ensure uniformity of process for analyzing, testing, and entering data and ensure that all of the long-term missing person cases for those participating agencies are 1) entered into NamUs and
2) family DNA reference samples are on file.
In total, 96 cases were selected for full analysis from Florida (n=91), the Wisconsin
Department of Justice (n=4), and the Pennsylvania State Police (n=1). Within the cases selected, 17 are buried in John Doe graves and 33 are juveniles that will get facial imaging and familial DNA searches (n=22 males). The criteria for selecting cases for this study include those in which
1) DNA testing has not been completed; 2) male juvenile homicide victims would benefit from familial DNA searches; 3) the case would benefit from additional testing (i.e., anthropological assessment, facial reconstruction, or chemical isotope testing) that has not yet been performed; and 4) agencies requested participation in a multi-disciplinary state-wide program. It is the long
term goal of this research team and the participating agencies that the program will continue
beyond the project period and apply the same methods to all of the long term open cases in


Date Created: September 16, 2015