Todd Matthews of Livingston, Tenn., has a unique hobby: He tries to identify the remains of those who die anonymously–and, often, violently. There are almost 6,000 unidentified bodies – John and Jane Does – listed in the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database, according to the FBI. “They’re all someone’s mother or daughter, father or son,” Matthews told USA Today. And they can be forgotten by law enforcement agencies that are short on time and tight on resources.
That’s where Matthews and like-minded volunteer researchers from the Doe Network come in. An Internet-based alliance of more than 600 people in 23 countries that began in 1999, the network tries to match the unnamed dead with bereft families hoping to find a missing relative. The Doe Network’s primary tool is the Internet. Network members are known for their persistence: No database or message board is too obscure, no clue too tangential, no amount of e-mailing too much in search of the leanest of facts. The network reports on its site, www.doenetwork.us, that it has identified 36 bodies. Doe members work on their own time without pay and many of the “unknowns” have been dead for years.