University Human Identification Center helps identify missing people across the country – North Texas Daily
The university’s Center for Human Identification is a globally recognized forensic laboratory that uses DNA testing to identify missing persons and unidentified victims of crime.
CHI is operated by the University’s Health Science Center in Fort Worth. It offers various services, including training of students and professionals, anthropological examinations and multiple research and development initiatives. The centre’s missing persons unit has processed a majority of samples that reside in the database of the Combined DNA Index System, a national DNA database maintained by the FBI.
“The main purpose of [CODIS] is to help identify individuals who commit crimes, so that the database is filled with convicted offenders, âsaid Michael Coble, associate director of CHI. “And there are other people who were forced to donate their DNA sample to be placed in the database.”
The CODIS database also includes a component for missing persons cases. Families of missing persons can submit their DNA samples to the database to help identify and potentially link the skeletal remains to their families.
“[We] may have the individual’s mother and maybe [the individualâs] dad [who have] both given their DNA sample and now we have the backbone DNA sample, âCoble said. âWe can make this comparison to ask the question: are these two people potentially the relatives of this missing person? And that’s how a lot of these cases are resolved, based on that kind of comparison.
Coble said criminal labs in the United States are generally not linked or associated with universities.
âOne of our founding directors, the late Dr Arthur Eisenberg, was instrumental in establishing the missing persons program here over 25 years ago,â Coble said. “He had a very good relationship with the FBI and the FBI granted permission for the university to have this software so they could do it.”
Since 2011, CHI has managed the National System of Missing and Unidentified Persons online database, which stores records such as DNA that can be used by the general public and law enforcement to help link unidentified remains to possible missing persons. This and the rest of the centre’s work is funded by the State of Texas and various project grants from various agencies across the country.
“NamUs is fully funded by two awards from the University of North Texas and the North Carolina-based Research Triangle Institute International,” Tannyr Watkins, National Institute of Justice public affairs specialist, said in a statement. E-mail. âThis year, the NIJ awarded the University of North Texas nearly $ 8 million to continue NamUs database and testing services and to clear a backlog of forensic work accumulated by the center. “
This funding allows CHI to work on various types of criminal investigations. The center is also part of Governor Greg Abbott’s Sexual Assault Task Force and completes sexual assault kits for the state of Texas.
“The Denton Police Department has had a close partnership with UNT CHI for many years,” DPD director of forensic pathology Michael Kessler said in an email. âCHI’s expertise in analyzing biological evidence has played a key role in many large-scale criminal investigations. With state and federal funding, UNT CHI provides its forensic DNA analysis services free of charge – critical support in our efforts to reduce violent crime and create a safer Denton.
In addition to working with the state and surrounding counties, the CHI also assists in large-scale federal investigations. Since 2011, the center has identified several of the once-unknown victims of Chicago-area serial killer John Wayne Gacy.
âI think the thing I’m most proud of about the center is the fact that we’re able to name the leftovers,â Coble said. âAnd we are able to let families shut down. It can be a huge burden on their psyche not to know what happened, but then to know that they have their [family memberâs remains], it means a lot. “
Featured Illustration By Miranda thomas