U.S medical examiners and coroners held at least 14,000 sets of unidentified human remains as of 2004 – more than twice the number of John Doe cases acknowledged by the FBI, says a federal Bureau of Justice Statistics study reported by USA Today. The backlog of unidentified remains of murder and accident victims and missing or homeless people who die of natural causes grows by about 1,000 each year. BJS director Jeffrey Sedgwick said a large number of the unidentified probably are murder victims. He said advances in DNA technology could make it possible for grieving families “to have some closure” and for “those responsible (to) meet justice.”
The true number of remains probably is far higher than the 14,000 the agency located. In Louisiana alone, there are incomplete or missing records from every coroner or medical examiner, he said. Louisiana’s coroners and medical examiners have been challenged since Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The FBI’s National Crime Information Center, the only other national registry of unidentified remains, has collected information on about 6,200 John Doe cases. Reporting to the FBI’s crime center is voluntary. BJS plans a follow-up study that will describe the remains and where they are stored.