Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2022, $996,042)
The University of North Texas Center for Human Identification (UNTCHI) will implement a comprehensive, multi-disciplinary, multi-agency collaboration to improve the reporting, transportation, processing, and identification of missing person (MP) and unidentified human remains (UHR) cases. UNTCHI seeks funding under Purpose Area 3 (services to assist small, rural, and/or tribal entities) to support American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) communities which have historically been underserved, and the associated tribal law enforcement agencies that often face unique resource and/or jurisdictional challenges that impede case resolutions.
With world-renowned DNA laboratories and subject matter experts who have supported MP and UP case investigations for over two decades, including those investigated by tribal law enforcement agencies, UNTCHI is uniquely qualified to manage this project and provide exceptional support to stakeholders. Managed through the UNTCHI Investigative Support Unit (ISU), this project will provide forensic and investigative assistance to agencies across the country in four focus areas to support AI/AN case resolutions:
(1) Collating data from multiple federal databases to develop an inventory of AI/AN cases requiring additional DNA analyses to insure effective searching in the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS);
(2) Performing outreach to agencies investigating MP and UHR cases associated with a threat to public safety;
(3) Assisting agencies with DNA collections for MP and UHR cases;
(4) Performing STR and mitochondrial DNA analyses on family reference samples (FRSs) and/or direct reference samples (DRSs), as well as UHR samples; and
(5) Collaborating with the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs), the Violent Criminal Apprehension Program (ViCAP), the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) Missing and Murdered Unit (MMU), and other applicable entities to enter, enhance, and compare case data.
The number of FRS, DRS, and UHR samples processed under this project may vary depending upon the specific needs and circumstances of each agency and case supported. Funds are budgeted to process between 120 and 160 UHR samples, as well as 360 to 480 FRS/DRSs. Performance metrics reported will include the number of FRS, DRS, and UHR samples processed and searched in CODIS; the number of DNA associations identified; the number of new entries made into NamUs and ViCAP; the number of cases in which an arrest or prosecution are reported to UNTCHI after the resolution of a case; and the total agencies supported. Success stories and other analytics/qualitative metrics demonstrating the national impact of this project will also be reported, as applicable.