Watch CBS News

Renewed Effort In Pennsylvania To Resolve Missing Persons Cases With Help Of NaMus

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- It's been called the nation's silent disaster. There are about 100,000 missing people in the United States and nearly 1,000 of them are from the Delaware Valley. There are also 40,000 cases of unidentified remains.

From Philadelphia to Harrisburg, there is a renewed effort to resolve the cases. One of those cases revolves around Jesse Farber.

Police say in a frantic call, he told an ex-girlfriend coyotes were chasing him in Tamaqua, Schuylkill County.

The 29-year-old had taken a familiar shortcut through the Old Coal Hills on Aug. 11, 2015. Weeks of searching turned up nothing.

"I think he was a victim of circumstance," Norma Jean Fritz, Farber's mother, said.

Fritz, who now lives in Chester County, is using the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, or NamUs, to find her son.

It allows family members and law enforcement to enter detailed information about missing people and unidentified bodies.

"I was able to put my DNA in the database," Fritz said.

The DNA is used to cross-check the lists for matches. Fritz was longing for a positive result.

"A lot of impatience, a little hopelessness," she said.

Eight states have passed NamUs laws. New Jersey has something similar on the books.

"If Jesse is found in a state that does not have to report it, does not matter that he's in NamUs as a missing person," Fritz said.

Frackville State Police found a skull months after Farber vanished. The information was never entered into NamUs until now.

The skull was not a match, but it was a potential break left on the cold-case shelf.

Investigators could not explain the delay, but the department says it "supports the use of the NamUs platform as an investigative tool."

In response, state Rep. Lynda Culver is backing a bill that requires Pennsylvania authorities to contribute to NamUs.

"It's gotta be excruciating if you are a family member of a loved one who has gone missing with no trace, no closure," Culver said.

Some agencies say they lack manpower to upload data.

"We have to encourage coroners and police to stay active," said Todd Matthews, director of case management and communications for NamUs.

The Philadelphia Police Department considers it a critical resource.

A puzzling case for police has been the disappearance of Richard Petrone and Danielle Imbo from South Street in 2005. The couple is listed in NamUs.

"Helps police department, helps the families, important tool in terms of entries," said Ryan Gallagher, forensics lab manager for the Philadelphia Police Department.

"I have high hopes the law will pass," Fritz said.

The legislation will bring attention to the cause of the missing.

CBS3's Crystal Cranmore reports.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.