An Invention Of Hope For Cold Cases

By Amelia Carpenter

NamUs is a searchable database within the U.S. Department of Justice used to solve missing person cases and track DNA samples at a national level.

In 2009, NamUs launched a fully searchable database to solve missing person cases using all registered DNA samples. According to the NamUs website, the database will search cases in the missing persons database against cases in the unidentified decedents database in an effort to identify unidentified human remains and solve missing persons cases.

Todd Matthews, NamUs regional system administrator, offered to run the core data from Tammen’s case through the actual process. Matthews was unable to comment before print due to flooding in Tennessee.

Virginia Braden, licensed private investigator out of northern Kentucky, is a bulldog. Braden works closely with victims, family members of missing persons, and law enforcement. After being brutally raped as a freshman in college, Braden has found her passion and made it her life’s work.

Braden said it would be interesting to see how the NamUs system could be helpful in the Tammen case.

Braden gave the example of a missing 16-year-old John Doe who was later identified by way of sampling candle wax off his jeans when they found him. A missing person was last seen at a vigil where candle wax was on the scene. Searching the site, investigators were able to piece the case together that their John Doe was in fact the 16-year-old at the vigil.

“Once jurisdiction understands (NamUs) and gets this working, I think cold cases are going to be cleared up,” Braden said. “I think it’s going to be a really effective tool.”

Braden said because new cold cases keep coming up and the money and manpower isn’t available to dedicate a cold case squad in many places, NamUs is going to be a tool that will alleviate cold cases that otherwise wouldn’t be reviewed.

Marcia Tammen’s DNA sample has been sent to the University of Texas for further specialized testing. The results will eventually be given to the FBI.

The DNA is in the computer bank now, but when complete, Smith said there are deceased individuals from across the U.S. he would like to compare with the DNA from Marcia Tammen.

In Lafayette, Georgia in 2008, Mike Freeman, sheriff’s detective in Walker County, Georgia, found a body 200 yards off Highway 27, which also runs through southwest Ohio. Smith and Freeman exchanged information and were able to use the DNA from Marcia Tammen to determine the body was not Ron’s.

Smith was recently contacted in regards to the Tammen case from officials in San Bernardino, California.

“There was an individual found there in the last part of April 1953. The characteristics do not meet Ron Tammen comparing DNA with what we got here and with what we (have) in San Bernardino.”

Smith said he would like to compare the Tammen DNA to the California individual.

“Do I think it’ll be a match?” Smith asked. “No I do not.”

If no information yields from the DNA test results, Smith said they would do another ‘news blitz.’ Smith mentioned pitching the Tammen case to TV channels who might air the story as a part of the outsourcing as well.

Smith hopes to go nationwide with the information he has, and he hopes someone will step forth.

“Hopefully one day if the person is still alive, obviously someone assisted him that night  — love to find out who that is,” Smith said.


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