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‘Doe Network’ performs to give names to the dead
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* Story Highlights
* Todd Matthews, 37, says identifying the "Does" is a "calling"
* The Doe Network has volunteers and chapters in each and every state.
* More than 40,000 unnamed bodies exist in the U.S., law enforcement reports say
* About 100,000 men and women are formally listed as missing, according to reports
LIVINGSTON, Tennessee (AP) — Their faces seem to float from Todd Matthews’ laptop — morgue photographs, artist sketches, forensic reconstructions — thousands of dead eyes staring from endless Web web sites as although crying out for recognition. John and Jane and Infant "Does" whose nameless bodies have never ever been identified.
His wife, Lori, complains that Matthews, a 37-year-old auto components supplier, spends far more time with the dead than he does with the living, which includes his two sons, Dillan, 16, and Devin, 6.
You require a hobby, she says, or a objective.
I have a goal, he replies, though he describes it as a "calling."
He wants to give "Does" back their names.
His obsession started two decades ago, when Lori told him about the unidentified young lady wrapped in canvas whose physique her father had stumbled on in Georgetown, Kentucky, in 1968. She had reddish-brown hair and a gap-toothed smile. And no one particular knew her name.
So locals blessed her with 1. They buried her under an apple tree with a pink granite tombstone engraved with the words "Tent Girl."
Tent Girl haunted him. Who had been her siblings? What was her name?
Matthews started browsing library records and police reports, not even confident what he was seeking. He scraped with each other the funds to get a personal computer. He started scouring message boards on the nascent Internet.
In the method, Matthews found anything extraordinary. All over the nation, people just like him have been gingerly tapping into the new technology, producing a movement — a network of amateur sleuths as curious and impassioned as Matthews.
Right now the Doe Network has volunteers and chapters in each state. Bank managers and waitresses, factory workers and farmers, personal computer technicians and grandmothers, all believing that with enough time and work, modern day technology can resolve the mysteries of the missing dead.
Increasingly, they are succeeding.
The unnamed dead are everywhere — buried in unmarked graves, tagged in county morgues, dumped in rivers and below bridges, interred in potter’s fields and all manner of makeshift tombs. There are much more than 40,000 unnamed bodies in the U.S., according to national law enforcement reports, and about one hundred,000 people formally listed as missing.
The premise of the Doe Network is simple. If the correct details — dental records, DNA, police reports, photographs — is correctly entered into the proper databases, several of the unidentified can be matched with the missing. Law enforcement agencies and medical examiners offices merely don’t have the time or manpower. Employing the World wide web and other tools, volunteers can do the job.
And so, in the suburbs of Chicago, bank executive Barbara Lamacki spends her nights browsing for clues that may recognize toddler Johnny "Dupage" Doe, whose physique was wrapped in a blue laundry bag and dumped in the woods of rural Dupage County, Illinois, in 2005.
In Kettering, Ohio, Rocky Wells, a 47-year-old manager of a package delivery firm, scoots his teenage daughters from the living space personal computer and scours the Internet for something that may possibly crack the case of the red-haired Jane Doe identified strangled near Route 55 in 1981. "Buckskin Girl," she was called, because of the cowboy-style suede jacket she was wearing when she was located.
And in Penn Hills, Pennsylvania, Nancy Monahan, 54, who creates floor displays for a discount chain, says her "real job" begins in the evening when she returns to her creaky yellow house and her black cat, Maxine, turns on her pc and begins sleuthing.
Monahan’s instances incorporate that of "Beth Doe," a young pregnant woman strangled, shot and dismembered, her remains stuffed into 3 suitcases and flung off a bridge along Interstate 80 near White Haven in December 1976. And "Homestead Doe," whose mummified body was located in an abandoned railroad tunnel in Pittsburgh in 2000. Her toenails have been painted silver.
Monahan was so moved that final year she sought out the tunnel, climbed down the embankment and presented a silent prayer for the young lady whose life ended in such a pitiful place.
"It’s like they become family," Monahan says. "You really feel a responsibility to bring them house."
The stories of Doe Network members are as person as the situations they are attempting to resolve. Bobby Lingoes got involved via his connection with law enforcement — he’s a civilian dispatcher with the Quincy, Massachusetts, police department. Traycie Sherwood of Richmond, Missouri, joined when her adoptive mother died and she went on line looking for her birth mother. Daphne Owings, a 45-year-old mother of two in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, required something to take her thoughts off the war when her husband was sent to Iraq.
Matches can be triggered by a single detail — a tattoo, a piece of clothes, a broken bone. It’s just a query of the appropriate particular person spotting the proper piece of data and piecing collectively the puzzle. The method can be tedious and frustrating.
And it can take its toll. Lori Matthews when left her husband for six months due to the fact of his obsession with Tent Girl. "He didn’t speak about something else," she said. "It wasn’t regular."
They reconciled soon after Matthews agreed to limit the quantity of time — and money — he spent on "Does."
Still, Matthews and other individuals say the rewards of cracking a case make the time worthwhile. The Doe Network claims to have assisted in solving far more than 40 circumstances and ruling out hundreds far more.
"They do God’s perform," says Mark Czworniak, 50, a veteran homicide detective in Chicago.
He very first encountered the Doe Network when he was approached by Lamacki, the Chicago bank executive, about possible matches. In contrast to some officers, Czworniak has no hesitation about functioning with civilian volunteers, specially those willing to devote endless hours to cold cases that he can not get to.
Czworniak says there are hundreds of "Does" in the division files. He is assigned five, such as a tall, 30-one thing man discovered at the Navy Pier in 2003. Czworniak hopes that the man’s height will aid Lamacki or an additional Network volunteer eventually make an identification.
"She’s like a small bloodhound," says Czworniak, who exchanges e-mails with Lamacki on circumstances every week and has introduced her to other detectives. "She has the wherewithal and interest and time and she searches these websites I’m not even conscious of."
In one more sign of the network’s influence, Matthews was asked to serve on a government process force involved in making the 1st national online information bank for missing and unidentified.
The National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, NamUS, launched final year, is made up of two databases, one for the missing and one for the unidentified. The aim is to have health-related examiners and law enforcement agencies around the nation continuously update details on both web sites. Subsequent year the web sites will be linked and created obtainable for public browsing.
No 1 believes NamUS will place the Doe Network out of enterprise — there will often be a need to have for men and women with their experience to make the required connections.
And so, households of the missing will no doubt continue to rely on people like Todd Matthews.
At his house in Livingston, Matthews has built a little nook next to the living space — his "Doe workplace," he calls it. His desk is laden with photos of dead bodies. He says he gets several e-mails about situations every week. Each night he scrolls down the lists, browsing for new data:
Unidentified White Female. Wore a necklace of silver beads and 3 small turquoise stones, one particular resembling a bird. Located in a Calendonia cornfield in New York state in 1979. …
Unidentified White female. Strawberry-blonde hair and 12 infant teeth. Wearing a pink and white dress that buttoned in the back and a disposable diaper. Identified Jackson County, Mississippi, 1982. …
Unidentified Black Female. Gunshot wound to the skull. Discovered next to highway ramp in Campbell County, Tennessee, in 1998…
The final case is close to Matthews’ heart. Sally, he named her, following a Campbell County police officer entrusted him with her skull in 2001.
The police did not have the time or indicates to pay for a clay reconstruction, and so — with the approval of the nearby coroner — Matthews took the skull to a Doe Network forensic artist. A image of the reconstructed head was placed on the Network web site. The skull sat on Matthews’ desk for over a year, and even Lori, who was at 1st so horrified she could not look at it, grew fond of Sally. She remains unidentified.
But even Sally can’t take the place of the first Doe, the a single who changed Matthews’ life. He nevertheless routinely drives to Kentucky, to a lonely plot in Georgetown to pay a visit to her.
"She’s family members now," he says.
Standing by her grave, he tells of the night in 1998 when, scouring chat rooms for the missing, he stumbled upon a message from Rosemary Westbrook of Benton, Arkansas.
Westbrook sought data about her sister, Bobbie, who was 24 when she went missing 30 years earlier. Bobbie had married a man who worked in a carnival, and she was final seen in Lexington. She had reddish-brown hair and a gap-toothed smile.
Over and over Matthews stared at the message. And in his heart he knew.
Lori, he cried, racing into the bedroom and shaking awake his wife
"I’ve identified her. I identified Tent Girl."
Weeks later the remains had been exhumed. The match was confirmed by DNA.
The loved ones decided to re-inter her in the spot that had been her resting spot for so numerous years. Beneath the stone etched "Tent Girl" they placed a tiny gray 1 engraved with her genuine name, the name that Matthews had restored.
She is Barbara Ann Hackmann, now and for eternity.
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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