Database helps cops searching for identities

About 80 members of law enforcement got training on how to use the NamUs database at the state police academy

By Michelle Tuccitto Sullo
New Haven Register

MERIDEN — A nationwide database has provided solid leads to the possible identity of a man killed on Interstate 91 here in 2008, according to police.

Law enforcement officials hope finding such leads in the Department of Justice's National Missing & Unidentified Persons System, known as NamUs, will become more common.

Toward that end, about 80 members of law enforcement got training on how to use the database Tuesday at the state police academy. Agencies such as the state Office of the Victim Advocate, Division of Criminal Justice and Police Officer Standards and Training Council acted as host.

Sgt. James Thomas, leader of the state police missing persons team, said the case of the I-91 pedestrian, an Asian man, went dormant despite publicity. With the help of NamUs, investigators learned of a likely match with a missing person about a month ago. They are awaiting the results of DNA analysis to confirm the identification, Thomas said.

"NamUs is a great resource, and I recommend that information be entered into it sooner rather than later," he said.

Nationwide, NamUs has helped solve 223 missing person cases and 97 unidentified body cases.

According to Thomas, it is difficult to determine the number of missing person cases in Connecticut. There are 496 missing persons in the state listed at the National Crime Information Center. Of those, dental information has been entered for just 18 cases.

Thomas stressed the importance of obtaining dental information for identification purposes. Connecticut requires dentists to keep records for only seven years, and some records are destroyed afterward.

NamUs as of Tuesday had 238 missing person cases and 42 unidentified body cases listed for Connecticut.

"If someone reports anyone missing, we need to take the report without delay," Thomas said.

The state police missing persons team, which formed earlier this year, has detectives from the three major crime units and the team is available to help local law enforcement throughout the state.

State Victim Advocate Michelle Cruz said she was pleased with the turnout at the training session.

"It is a great opportunity, and I hope people will learn about the importance of NamUs, and how the state police's missing persons team is available to help," she said.

Janice Smolinski of Cheshire, whose son William Smolinski Jr. of Waterbury disappeared in August 2004 at the age of 31 and is still missing, spoke at the session.

Smolinski called the turnout "encouraging" and "a start."

"I hope all the officers here will bring back the information to their departments and share the information about NamUs," Smolinski said. "Connecticut has taken leaps and bounds in paying attention to missing and unidentified person cases. The officers seem to care, which is very encouraging."

Sgt. Lisa Hamilton, who is on Eastern Connecticut State University's police force, was among those who attended.

"Education is power, and I want to go back and share this with others," Hamilton said. "When someone's loved one is missing, we want the system to work."

Copyright 2012 Journal Register Co.

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