Missing in NC: RTI hosting event to help families find missing loved ones

Joel Brown Image
Friday, September 8, 2023
Missing in NC: RTI hosting first-of-its-kind event to help families
Investigators, statewide, are trying to find hundreds of people who vanished - who have families desperately looking for answers.

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. (WTVD) -- They've gone missing in North Carolina. Statewide, investigators are trying to find hundreds of people who vanished -- who have families desperately looking for answers.

A special first-of-its-kind event on Friday in Research Triangle Park is aimed at connecting loved ones of the missing with the resources that can help.

At any given moment, 100,000 people may be reported missing in the United States. DNA matching technology is dramatically improving investigations. But many families of the missing are still waiting for answers.

On Friday, for the first time, RTI International -- one of the world's premier research organizations -- teams with the State Bureau of Investigation, seven other state and local law enforcement agencies along with NamUS -- the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System -- for the inaugural Missing Persons Day.

Families of the missing are invited to RTI headquarters in RTP to sit down with law enforcement, forensic professionals, and experts in the field to beef up the NamUS database filled with thousands of missing and unidentified person cases.

It's an "extremely rare" opportunity for loved ones of missing people to have all of these resources all in one place at one time, said Donia Slack, RTIs organizer of the event. She's a forensic expert by trade and manages RTI's account with the Department of Justice and NamUS.

"(People who come) will be able to update case information; they'll be able to make a case report if they haven't done so already; provide biometrics, DNA, photos, X-rays, anything that will help get information into these cases," Slack said.

Assistant Special Agent in Charge Nathan Thompson directs the SBI's cold case unit. He'll be on hand Friday.

"The event gives us the chance to educate the people on the process," Thompson told ABC11.

There are more than 570 missing persons cases in North Carolina. Ninety percent have been missing for at least five years. And half of the cases are ethnic minorities, who account for much less of the population.

Thompson said getting more families of color to submit DNA to genealogy websites GED Match and Family Tree DNA would help tremendously.

"I've told missing people's families before, the best thing you can do is submit your DNA to these databases," Thompson said. "The African American community and the Latin American community are hugely, hugely underrepresented when it comes to the genealogy databases."

The event runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Friday at RTI's campus in RTP. Its address is 3040 E Cornwallis Road, Research Triangle Park.

"We would love to have this yearly," Slack said. "As long as people come and find this of value we will continue to support these types of efforts."

It's not too late to register. (Click here) to sign up to attend.

Gov. Roy Cooper will proclaim Friday as North Carolina Missing Persons Awareness Day in support of the event.