Are There Problems with NamUs National Missing Persons & Unidentified Persons Data Integrity?

April 6th, 2018

Questions regarding NamUs’ Unidentified Persons data integrity arise after discussing a NamUs case with a local Coroner.

On April 4th, 2018, I was speaking with the local coroner, Vernon Collins, discussing NamUs UP #2060, the skull found by a hunter back in 1991 (read all about it here in my prior articles: Unidentified Remains in Columbia County, 1991 Cold Case Reopened). There is an update with a twist to come soon! However, while on the phone with Vernon, who is wonderfully helpful and knowledgeable, I also brought up the subject of NamUs Unidentified Person (UP) #17420. I had some questions about this particular case too so I seized the opportunity to broach the subject.

Quick synopsis on this case from NamUs: burned remains were found in a house fire in Appling, a tiny town on the north side of Columbia County, Georgia. This case notes the date found as January 2nd. The date created in Namus is February 1st, while the most recent date of an update on this case is February 26th.

As it turns out, this NamUs case is closed and should not even be in NamUs. The remains were identified the very same day that they were discovered, and the coroner does not know why they are listed in NamUs. Why was this person entered into Namus 25 days after he was identified? Who entered this case? Why was this NamUs case updated on February 26th, almost another month later and went through a QA review yet it was not closed out?

Anyone can search for a house fire in Appling, Georgia, and find ample information stating exactly what happened and naming the deceased. In fact, both Fox 54 and The Augusta Chronicle reported that the man was identified as 57-year-old Charles Dorsey on the date of the fire. His was an unfortunate death, the fire was caused by a hot plate, likely while Charles slept. For additional information, please see links at the bottom of this article. With all this information available, and so quickly, how did this man make it into NamUs as a UP?

Charles Dorsey RIP
May you rest in peace, Charles Dorsey.

In addition to raising questions as to how cases in NamUs are created, reviewed, and eventually deleted, this incident also calls into question the validity of the data that is currently available in NamUs. How many of the 229 unidentified persons listed in NamUs for the state of Georgia are actually unidentified? The Georgia Bureau of Investigation only lists 54 unidentified persons in their very similar database as of today. This is a substantial variance. Thousands of investigators and missing persons volunteers use this data daily, sites like The Lost & The Found by Reveal rely on the data they receive from NamUs. (I love The Lost & The Found site and highly recommend a visit!)

Are all cases actually entered into NamUs or the GBI databases? What about the 3 bodies found in December 2016 in Richmond County that were noted as unidentified in the news previously? Were they identified and just not in the news and that is why they are not in NamUs? Are they still unidentified and should be in NamUs? What can we do to improve this process so that our national reporting system actually has good data, for law enforcement and volunteers throughout the country?

I intend to speak with the Richmond and Columbia County Coroners soon to hear their opinions and learn more about the process on their side. I will speak with NamUs representatives as well. I contacted NamUs this morning but have not received a call back yet. It typically takes a good 5-6 business days for a response there, so it may be awhile before I have a presentable update, or an updated and accurate NamUs database, which is my end goal in this endeavor.

What can we do to improve this process so that our national reporting system actually has good data, for law enforcement and volunteers throughout the country? Is there anything you would like to see me ask? Or are you involved with NamUs or local law enforcement and can provide insight? If so, reach out below or via email and let me know!

Sources for this article:

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