How many nameless dead are in your state?

Unidentified people

Do you know how many unidentified dead people are in your state? Until recently, we had 115 nameless dead in North Carolina, where I live. I reported on their cases last fall, using a publicly available database called NamUs, or the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System.

You can search for cases by state, sex, race, ethnicity, age and more. Each case includes the medical examiner’s case number, the circumstances of the person’s death, physical and medical descriptions, descriptions and photos of clothing and accessories and, occasionally, a headshot from the autopsy or a sketch of the person.

I used the database to write a story and create a map showing where the 115 people were found around North Carolina. I also made a slideshow of the sketches and artist renderings that were available:

I recently found out that a local police officer helped identify four of the unknown people using his fingerprint analysis skills. Once he discovered the people’s names, he began searching for their family members to let them know what happened. I asked how he is trying to track them down, and you know what his answer was? PUBLIC RECORDS.


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