Federal dollars could help close missing persons cases

By Valencia

CHARLESTON COUNTY, S.C. (WCIV) - In 2010, the Charleston County Coroner's office had 60 unidentified remains. Not much has changed since then, except now there's an opportunity to use technology to help figure out whose bones they are.

"They can be a murder victim; they can be someone who was just here on vacation and died," said Charleston County Coroner{}Rae Wooten. "They may be homeless; they maybe a suicide victim. Any body can be unidentified at the time of their deaths."

Because the coroner's office cannot identify the body, many families never find out what happened to their loved ones.

In an effort to give families closure, Wooten is asking for a $150,00 federal grant that would pay for a forensic anthropologist who would be in charge of submitting DNA information for unnamed remains onto a national online database.

"What the grant allows us to do is help to provide money and resources to collect that DNA, have it run against some databases that already exist and give us feedback as to whether or not we have what we call 'a hit,'" said Wooten.

If the grant is approved, DNA information, much like dental records are, will be collected and posted to the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, commonly known as NAMUS. {}

The information could then be evaluated by law enforcement agencies across the country.

"It very well may help us find out that the person we are looking for in South Carolina has actually died in another state," Wooten said.

Wooten says the funds could help put an end to popular investigations like the cases of Gayle McCaffrey and Brandy Hanna.

If approved, the grant will be dispersed to Charleston County sometime in September.

close video ad
Unmutetoggle ad audio on off