Webinar Notes: Understanding the World of Cybersleuths

Webinar Notes Understanding the World of Cybersleuths


Webinar Focus (0:22)

  • How volunteer community can provide resources to investigating agencies through tips, leads, and research.
  • Skills needed to turn the public into law enforcement partners as cybersleuths.


Resource Speakers (00:46)

  • Todd Matthews

    • Director of NamUs Communications and Case Management System
    • Manages NAMUS Regional System Administrator Staff
    • Oversees QA and QC of NamUs data
    • Coordinates print and broadcast medium
    • NamUs spokesperson
    • Volunteers as media director for the Doe Network and project EDAN
    • Blogger and consultant for TV shows dealing with missing and unidentified persons


The Justice Clearinghouse (01:41)

  • Peer-to-peer educational program for justice professionals
  • Year-round virtual conference on justice-related topics
  • Events are free-to-attend, with subscribers having 24/7 access to recorded webinars and eligible for certifications which may be used for continuing education credits.
  • Interactive webinars with quick polls, Q&A, and feedback survey


Cybersleuths (05:36)

  • Started quite a while back, as early as the mid-90s
  • Cybersleuth Groups

    • Doe Network
    • Cold Cases
    • Websleuths
  • Book

    • Skeleton Crew by Deborah Halber
  • Channels used

    • Calls
    • E-mail
    • Website
    • Forums
    • Yahoo Groups
    • Myspace
    • Facebook
  • Issues with cybersleuths

    • Volume of tips and inquiries
    • Dealing with low hanging fruit
    • Tips are not as descriptive enough
    • Lack of comparison of the tips provided
    • Vague theories


NamUs (09:33)

  • Developed with a public interface so the public can help in resolving crimes and cases
  • Anybody can enter in a missing person’s case

    • Validated with local enforcement before it goes live
  • Database automates matching based on different factors

    • Geography
    • Chronology
    • Physical Description
    • Proximity
  • Provides case files and data that are put out for public consumption
  • Unclaimed database able to help find missing family members
  • Case archiving for resolved cases
  • Backlog cases still needed to be input to the system
  • Core:

“An integral component of NamUs is the group of responsible, dedicated volunteers who scour case details in an effort to match longā€term missing persons to unidentified decedents. In “The Skeleton Crew”, Deborah Halber follows the journey of some of these volunteers who have made it their mission to assist criminal justice professionals in resolving those cases.” ~ Arthur Eisenberg, PhD


Tent Girl Case (12:33)

  • The first time the internet was used to resolve a case
  • Precedent to the rise of the cybersleuths
  • Body found by Todd’s father in law back in 1968
  • Utilized message boards to find leads
  • Found an online posting looking for a woman matching the description of the tent girl
  • Todd contacted the family

    • In hindsight, he should’ve contacted law enforcement first
  • Matched DNA by exhuming the buried body


Seeking the public’s assistance (15:40)

  • Ensure that your messages on the information that you need are concise, precise and consistent
  • Generate press release for a case to provide guidance on what they already have and/or what they still need
  • Respond and/or acknowledge leads and tips provided
  • Share the stories and investigation to the media and the public to serve as a guide on what information you need, want to see, and used in resolving cases
  • Tell the public what they can do to help disseminate information


Pieces of evidence that may be used (17:20)

  • Materials found with an unidentified body
  • Unique jewelry details
  • Tattoos

    • Tattoo parlors can help identify specific tattoos
    • Match tattoos to places, time
  • Geology
  • Dental records
  • Fingerprints
  • Print cards
  • DNA
  • Forensic art / Facial reconstructions

    • Professional volunteer artists that do facial reconstruction
    • Project EDAN (Everybody Deserves A Name)


Crowdsourcing (28:12)

  • Some information can be crowdsourced, some not
  • The media is one good way to invigorate interest and crowdsource
  • Donate funds for unresolved crimes
  • Share flyers and resources
  • Allow public to initiate a report, inquire a case/report in NamUs
  • Check and asking your state representatives for legislation on missing and unidentified persons


1921 Kentucky Case (37:34)

  • No medical examiner community during the time of the case
  • Local coroner not aware of the case’s existence
  • A historical case
  • Entered into NamUs
  • Family members in Southern Kentucky solved the case
Additional Resources
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