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Palm Beach County's Missing & Unidentified Human Remains (MUHR) Trauma Informed, Multidisciplinary Strategy

Award Information

Award #
Funding Category
Competitive Discretionary
Awardee County
Palm Beach County
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2023, $500,000)

Through Palm Beach County’s Trauma Informed, Multi-Disciplinary MUHR Strategy, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office (PBSO), a unit of the PBC Government and likewise an eligible applicant, is requesting $500,000 over a 36-month project period to improve the reporting, transportation, processing, and identification of missing persons and unidentified remains, including migrants and persons historically underserved and adversely affected by inequality.

There are currently 57 unidentified human remains cases for which PBSO is the lead law enforcement agency.  Of these 57 cases, 21 have been classified as death by homicide and eight (8) are suspected border-crossing cases by way of the Atlantic Ocean.  There are 26 unresolved, long-term missing person cases (1994-2023). In MUHR cases for which the race/ancestry is known, approximately 45% have been identified as Persons of Color which, when compared to population percentages, reveal troubling racial inequities.

PBSO’s Cold Case Squad, Forensic Biology Unit, Victim Advocates, and a multi-disciplinary team of project partners: the PBC Medical Examiner, PBC State Attorney’s Office, and fee for service contracted laboratories, work collaboratively to address MUHR Cases in PBC through a well-established, trauma informed, “Best Practices” framework. Limited resources restrict access to advanced DNA analysis(DNA) and Forensic Genetic Genealogy(FGG) and as a result, multiple investigations wherein all available resources have been exhausted are currently unable to proceed.  Each of these cases represent a person whose “missingness” profoundly impacts families, friends, and communities; closure is not possible, justice cannot be delivered, public safety is threatened, and law enforcement-community relations are jeopardized.

PBC is the second largest FL County in landmass, spanning 1970 square miles, which includes 40 miles of Atlantic Ocean coastline (vulnerable to border crossings), and the third largest in populace with over 1.497 million residents and an estimated 7 million tourist visitors each year (Wikipedia, 2022). The diverse resident population includes an estimated 74.2% Whites, 20.1 % Blacks, .6% American Indian/Alaska Native, 3.0% Asians, .1% Native Hawaiian, and 1.9% reporting two or more races.  Additionally, 23.9% of the residents are of Hispanic origin, an estimated 26.3% are foreign-born, and approximately 33.1% speak a language other than English at home (census.gov/quickfacts/). PBC is also home to areas of unparalleled wealth and boundless opportunity juxtaposed by areas of abject poverty and disproportionate rates of violent crime. Socio-economically disadvantaged communities are at greater risk for violence, premature mortality, and inadequate access to resources, all of which can contribute to MUHR cases.

Funding provided through this opportunity will increase PBSO’s capacity to incorporate DNA and FGG technologies, thereby increasing MUHR Case resolution for which the benefits are far reaching and ultimately, immeasurable. (The exact number of cases is pending based on the inventory to be completed within the first 6 months of the project). Additionally, and importantly, dedicating resources and actively investigating MUHR cases also gives voice and demonstrates both commitment and compassion for communities disproportionately impacted, historically marginalized and underserved.

Date Created: September 8, 2023