LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – A new law aims to help law enforcement agencies crack more cold cases.
It utilizes a website to provide a fresh look at evidence that could lead to arrest, prosecution and conviction.
If someone is missing for more than a year, their case goes cold in many law enforcement agencies. The National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) could revive them by connecting missing persons with unidentified remains.
The database shows more than 200 unsolved missing persons cases in Arkansas and more than a hundred unidentified bodies in the state crime lab.
“We all know that there are far more missing persons in Arkansas than that,” Kermit Channell, the lab’s executive director, told lawmakers when they first heard the bill in committee.
According to the Arkansas Attorney General’s Never Forgotten website, there are nearly 500 unsolved missing persons cases in the state. The new law requires law enforcement agencies to input vital data into NamUs, including fingerprints, DNA, detailed personal descriptions, and the date and place of death within 30 days.
For missing kids, an agency has two hours to enter the child into NamUs, which the legislation’s sponsor said should only take an extra 15 minutes since officers are already entering the information into the FBI’s National Crime Information Center (NCIC).
“I know from personal experience that the not knowing destroys families and lives,” St. Rep. Rebecca Petty, R-Rogers, told her colleagues.
Rep. Petty’s daughter was raped and murdered when she was 12 years old. Her body was found three days later, but other families have waited much longer for an answer and some still don’t have one.
“If there’s one thing we can do, bringing this together to solve these cases, I just can’t express enough how important it is,” Petty said.
Families of missing persons can play an active role in their search by inputting information into NamUs that could identify them.
According to the Arkansas Law Enforcement Training Academy (ALETA), the new law does not require extra training hours or cost for agencies. The state will absorb the system into its current curriculum.