Martin Franzel walked away from his Minneapolis home in 1963 and never returned. Aaron Anderson, 2, was last seen in his Pine City yard in 1989. This May, Cody Christle, 20, set off on foot from a friend’s Hinckley home and vanished.
These are three of the 147 Minnesotans in the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs), the first publicly accessible nationwide database designed to solve some of the most puzzling and agonizing modern mysteries.
It has only been five years since the database became fully operational. That’s surprising, given that the agency behind NamUs, the U.S. Department of Justice, has overseen the National Crime Information Center since it debuted 47 years ago. That massive database also includes information on missing persons and unidentified bodies, but it remains a tool of law enforcement that is off-limits to the public.
The true power of NamUs is harnessing the collective knowledge of family, friends and other interested individuals to match unidentified remains with the names of vanished individuals. Public users can add their own missing persons cases onto the list, correct errors, provide additional information and, in many ways, do their own investigation, long after the case has gone cold.
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