Webinar presenter Carol Schweitzer from NCMEC answered a number of your questions after her presentation, “Never Stop Searching: Innovative Tools & Strategies for Long-Term Missing and Unidentified Cases.” Here are a few of her responses.
Audience Question: Who is authorized to consult missing person data and unidentified data that you’ve gathered?
Carol Schweitzer: We have a case analysis unit and all of the info that is released is actually accessible on our website, missingkids.org. You can actually go there and pull a lot of our general statistics down. If there are specific numbers from the data that you are interested in we can always try to pair you up with one of the supervisors in that unit to try to answer more specific questions.
Aaron: I did want to share a comment from one of our attendees, Milton. He says I am one of the NCMEC Team Adam and Project ALERT consultants. He is also a retired police chief. I just want to assure law enforcement folks out there that NCMEC is not there to take away or takeover your cases. Our purpose is to be a resource, help get other resources you may not be able to access. NCMEC’s ability to be a conduit to so many other agencies, public and private while cutting through so much red tape is huge.
Audience Question: You mentioned Parabon, are there other labs or do you have a list of labs that you might be able to suggest for genealogical testing?
Carol Schweitzer: Yes. A lot of the partners that we worked with for forensic genealogy was listed on that one slide which I can definitely go back to and just kind of keep up here for you guys to see. There’s more than that that’s available out there but those are the primary ones that we consult with routinely.
Audience Question: Where can we go to learn more about forensic genealogy?
Carol Schweitzer: There hasn’t been a, one primary interest group that’s doing, well Parabon is doing a great job doing wide and big presentations on helping to educate law enforcement on what forensic genealogy is. Their primary genealogist, CeCe Moore has done a great job at reaching the masses and sharing that information. Right now I don’t know of any written material that is very comprehensive in regards to the forensic, how to start forensically when you start with an unknown but I know that the genealogists out there like CeCe Moore, Barbara Ray Venter. They’ve been in high demand lately and are making their way to a lot of different homicide conferences. If you want to see them actually speak in person and learn more about the actual details of how it’s done, you can go and try to attend one of those in your local area and I believe DNA Doe Project has also started to offer training to law enforcement on how to do it themselves.
Audience Question: Can you share some best practices for interviewing family members and friends and extended individuals?
Carol Schweitzer: That’s not an area that NCMEC gets involved in. While we maintain our relationship with and provide support directly to searching family members, we don’t necessarily interview them. Those are for, that’s reserved for the law enforcement that’s investigating that case.
Audience Question: I’ve heard about using PKU cards from hospitals that are collected at birth. If there is enough DNA from these cards to be useful. Are you able to share anything about that?
Carol Schweitzer: Yes. PKU card is a great thing to try to look up in your state. We have maintained a list here at the National Center that we kind of use internally to see what states actually retain them long term. We haven’t found them to be as useful in the long term investigation because of so many states (indiscernible 58:45) them for like 45 days. There are not many states that keep them long term. If you are dealing with a couple of years old case or couple decades case, it might not be available to you. As long as they were stored properly they should be good sources to develop used for forensic genealogy.
Audience Question: How much is it for a law enforcement agency to develop forensic images on their own?
Carol Schweitzer: On their own? It’s going to depend on what resources they have. I don’t know what the cost is. I can’t answer that question. I know that if you are working with NCMEC, those resources are provided at no cost to your agency. Our forensic artists also offer free training at least once a year to law enforcement that wants to learn how to do age progression or skull reconstruction, facial reconstruction and all of that training is listed also on our website, missingkids.org under training opportunities. An agency where a forensic artist maybe offering those training. That will be free training to law enforcement.
Audience Question: Great. Is that, I’m assuming is that based at the Virginia office or is it all around the country?
Carol Schweitzer: Last year we are actually up at Maryland. It kind of varies depending on where we find some space and some time
Audience Question: Are there any court cases where forensic genealogy has been challenged?
Carol Schweitzer: Not that I’m aware of. We have been very fortunate to see that. I know in Maryland, they did recently, some of the lawmakers tried to pass a bill to ban the use of that technique on their cases but it did not pass. For specific cases no I have not seen it yet be challenged. For the cases that have gone through they have pled.
Audience Question: What is the best method for collecting pollen for submission, for example, from a cupholder as what you have mentioned during your examination?
Carol Schweitzer: Baby wipes. If you get a baby wipe and you just rub and wipe the inside of that cup holder and you put it in a little plastic bag, an evidence sealing bag. Seal it up. That will be sufficient.