The FBI will use its national DNA database system to help identify not only criminals, but also missing persons and tens of thousands of unidentified bodies held by coroners and medical examiners, reports USA Today. A computer program planned for this fall will compare genetic profiles taken from unidentified bodies or body parts with DNA submitted by relatives of missing persons. The plan takes advantage of the fact that biological relatives sometimes have similar, though not identical, DNA profiles. The FBI will look for near-matches.
The International Homicide Investigators Association, based in Fredericksburg, Va., estimates there are more than 40,000 unidentified dead nationally. “We need to broaden our capability,” said Thomas Callaghan, director of the FBI’s national DNA database program. He said the FBI is in “a very good position” to identify remains through family members because of the agency’s small but growing database of missing persons and unidentified remains, plus its experience in using computers to match DNA. The national DNA system has about 3 million offender profiles and about 135,000 from the scenes of unsolved crimes. The system holds fewer than 2,000 DNA samples from missing persons, their relatives, and unidentified remains.