• Database led to information that prompted new search in 1994 cold case

    By: Courtney Cole , Action News Jax

    Updated:

    More than 600,000 people disappear every year in the United States, according to the National Institute of Justice.

    On Action News Jax, we often share alerts from police or the Sheriff’s Office, asking you to help find someone. But there's another way you can help law enforcement solve these cases.

    Action News Jax reporter Courtney Cole has researched a database called “NAMUS” and learned how a local law enforcement agency used it recently on a cold case.

    The Putnam County Sheriff's Office was able to pull a file on the NAMUS database that led to the search for a woman in a 25-year-old cold case.

    Mary Roderick was last seen at her home on Lake Margaret Boulevard in Lake Como on Dec. 16, 1994.


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    She was reported missing by her siblings, but since then there hasn't been any trace of her. 

    Police suspect foul play in her disappearance.

    Just last Monday, the Putnam County Sheriff's Office teamed up with the Sarasota K-9 and rescue unit to search for evidence in Roderick's disappearance.

    This search, 25 years after her disappearance, has stemmed from the file investigators pulled on NAMUS.

    "NAMUS gives those families and law enforcement a place to input all their information -- so if they turn up somewhere they can be identified,” said Ryan Backmann. 

    Backmann, the founder and executive director of Project Cold Case, told Action News Jax that NAMUS also provides families with free training, criminal justice services, forensic services and DNA collection kits.

    "As long as we have the public interest and community interest, we've gotta be pushing these things so that as many cases as possible can be resolved,” Backmann told Cole.

    The National Institute of Justice launched  the "National Missing and Unidentified Persons System — or NAMUS — in 2007.

    Since then, more than 45,000 cases have been entered and more than 16,000 cases resolved.

    The Putnam County Sheriff’s Office told Action News Jax they've been using the database for years.

    Our Action News Jax Law and Safety Expert says he thinks more people would use it ... if they knew about it.

    "We're aware that DNA is frequently used to identify bad people, culprits — individuals who are hurting other people. What we don't hear about is the use of DNA to find or identify missing people,” Carson said.

    The St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office told Cole they’ve also been using the database for a number of years now.

    Unfortunately it hasn't helped them resolve any cases, yet.

    Cole reached out to JSO and the Clay County Sheriff’s Office as well. She’s still waiting to hear back.

    Backmann told Cole that you don’t have to know someone personally in any of the missing persons cases to get involved.

    He said there are many people who use the website to try and put the pieces together in some of the cases in their area, too.

    “The public should go in there and tool around a little bit … and see if, check the area you live, the state, the city you live in and see if there's cases in there you might be able to help with,” said Backmann.

    If you’d like to learn more about NAMUS and register, click here

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