Cold Case Missing Persons

Every year, more than 600,000 people go missing in the United States, ranging from young children to older individuals. Not only that, but it is currently estimated that nearly 4,400 unidentified bodies are recovered each year. Roughly 25% remain unidentified after one year. These cold case missing persons are tragic and deserve a name, and ultimately justice and peace for their family.

There are numerous cold case resources such as databases to help identify these cold case missing persons. These databases are a great place to begin your research for information that currently exists or to explore movement made on a case. If you are asking how to look up a cold case, or how to look up homicide cases, or even how to start a cold case investigation—start here. States might also maintain databases, but national databases that focus on communities that are often overlooked by traditional media help to advocate for victims in their death. Databases such as The Charley Project, who profiles over 9,000 cold cases of missing children and adults from the United States. NamUs (National Missing and Unidentified Persons System) is a national information clearinghouse and resource center for missing, unidentified, and unclaimed person cases across the United States.

Other databases such as Black and Missing Foundation, Inc. create awareness of missing persons of color; provides vital resources and tools to missing persons’ families and friends and educates the minority community on personal safety. The DNA Doe Project is an exciting new initiative that uses genetic genealogy to identify John and Jane Does, and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children is a clearinghouse reporting center for all issues related to the prevention of and recovery from child victimization, and a national missing persons list.

The Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Database is a working database that logs cases of missing and murdered indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit people, from 1900 to the present. And the Trans Doe Task Force is a collective database of cold cases in which the subject may have been transgender or gender-variant unsolved missing persons.

Unsolved Case Files

A question that a good deal of people might ask when researching cold cases would likely be: are cold case files available to the public? Publicly available data is. This would be news stories, police reports, and the like. However, another resource is true crime podcasts and documentaries. These resources require so much research to be done, and many times they list their references. One might be tempted to visit chatrooms, Reddit threads or Facebook groups to gather unsolved cold case files, but these are not a good resource to standalone. These places are great for sharing theories or uncovering other potential resources, but they should always be validated and checked against at least two other sources to ensure accurate information and not perpetuating hurtful conspiracies. Digital literacy is very important.

There are many famous unsolved missing persons cases. Many of these cases have turned into lore or legend; such as the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa, famed union leader who went missing in the 1970s, DB Cooper, a Seattle hijacker who jumped from a plane in the middle of the night with $200,000, or Amelia Earhart, the pioneering female pilot who disappeared on the first around-the-world flight in 1937. These mysterious disappearances in history are still unsolved.

Mysterious disappearances solved after the fact usually have tragic endings. Such cases include the as disappearance of Michael and Alex Smith from South Carolina in the 1990s. Their mother originally reported that she has been carjacked, and the boys were strapped in their car seats in the backseat. A state-wide search with national attention—because of racist implications of the supposed kidnapper—ended in sadness when the boys would be found still in the car seats in downed by their mother in a South Carolina lake.

There are also mysterious missing persons cases solved after many years. By far, the most famous case is that of Etan Patz. When on his way to school in lower Manhattan in 1979, Etan Patz vanished, and a large search ensued to find him. He was the first lost child to be placed on a milk carton. He was declared officially dead by 2001, and an investigation was revived by the police in May 2012 led them to Pedro Hernandez, a former bodega stock manager in Etan’s neighborhood. He confessed to abducting the child and placing his body in the garbage; no related physical evidence has ever been uncovered from this 50-year-old case.

Consider this

More than 200,000 unsolved cases have gone cold since 1980, and murder clearance rates continue to drop. With equity for BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and other underserved victims not prioritized in the true crime community—together we can do better.

Missing Persons Database

As we mentioned, there exists a missing persons database for nearly every community; however, there is not one database that connects all missing people. New missing persons database starts solving cases when they can bring all information to one location for those seeking to find answers or solve a case. If one database were in fact available, it could connect crucial details about cases and small details that are likely lost when multiple databases are created for this purpose.

With so many people going missing every year, looking at recent missing persons reports is an important way to start a thoughtful search. The FBI hosts a database where you can run recent missing persons reports on various criteria and filters. These can include descriptions and categories—such as sex, hair color, missing persons by state, and so on. Another filter that can be placed is one that looks at newest listed cases. Here you can organize data from missing persons by decade.

The National Crime Information Center (NCIC) looks at the period from 1990 to 2019, to identify missing persons by decade. Here you can see, compared to previous years, the number of missing persons has declined marginally in 2019, with 609,275 instances—spiking in 1997 with 908,712 missing persons cases.

While these statistics are truly sad, they are true missing persons stories. These are not just numbers and stats, but people who have families, and who’d hearts break for answers in their disappearance. In fact, recent strange disappearances including Lauren Spierer from Indiana University in 2019. In 2019, more than 235,000 women under the age of 21 were reported missing—this includes Lauren. She went missing on June 2 after spending the evening with friends and seen on a surveillance camera at a local bar at 2AM and then outside her residence at 4AM, but then never seen again.

How Many Missing Persons Are Never Found

The number of missing persons that are never found is not a number that cannot be easily answered, as populations that are under represented such as communities of color, indigenous and LGBTQ+ persons are often under reported so answering the question: how many missing persons are never found? Is difficult in this regard.

Looking at statistics regarding how many missing children are found. It is reported by Reuters that actually over 99 percent of children who are reported missing in the US are found and brought home alive. Many of these missing children found are taken by family members. However, more than 100 missing children cases are taken by strangers every year, and nearly half of these missing children cases end in tragedy or are never solved.

Missing children statistics are very sad and touch many communities as these missing person cases that ended in tragedy happen annually. The case of Caylee Anthony is one such case that embodies that taken by a stranger/taken by a family member theory. Even the delayed reporting of her “disappearance” and supposed “kidnapping” by her mother Casey Anthony went onto to taint find answers in this case.

Missing Persons Search

Conducting a missing person search might closely align with missing posters, but searches are also done online using databases and filtering categories in these mysterious disappearances, such as missing persons 1960s. This search would retrieve various cases, including the case of the Beaumont children. This case involves three Australian siblings who, in a presumed kidnapping and murder, vanished from Glenelg Beach near Adelaide, South Australia on 26 January 1966.

If one looks at missing persons 1970s, the case of Colleen Stan will be front and center. This tragic case ultimately ended in Collen escaping her kidnapper, but this horrible case of sexual bondage that lasted for seven years, and kept chained up in a coffin-like box under the couple’s bed who kidnapped her.

Additionally, a database search for missing persons 1980 or missing persons 1980s will bring return many cases. Most notably, is the case of Adam Walsh, the son of America’s Most Wanted host, John Walsh. Kidnapped by a stranger from a Florida shopping center, Adam would later be found gruesomely murdered. His legacy would live on in many ways to include the creation of ‘Code Adam’ by Walmart to alert retail workers of a missing child in a store.

These are merely highlighted cases across the decades. The same could also be said for missing children 2019, or missing children 2020, or even missing persons 2020.

Citizen Detective Guide Cover

Get Your Free Step-By-Step Citizen Detective Guide