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Expressing Sense of the House of the Importance of Providing a Voice for Victims and their Families Involved in Missing Persons and Unidentified ...

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC



Mr. CHABOT. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

I, first of all, would like to thank the gentleman from Virginia for his leadership on this very important issue. I know Mr. Scott has been one of those who has cared greatly about those families that have suffered the trauma of a lost person within their family. So I want to thank Mr. Scott on this. And I think this is another issue in which we have seen bipartisanship in this House. Sometimes you don't see a lot of instances of that, but I think this is one where we can work together in a bipartisan fashion, and I want to thank Mr. Scott for his leadership on this.

Given that tomorrow is the first annual day of remembrance for murder victims, it is only fitting that we recognize and respond to a segment of the victim population that too often goes unrecognized: those victims who are missing and whose remains have yet to be identified. Unfortunately, it is far more common than one would think, just how many families are searching for some clue as to the location of the remains of their missing family members, and too often families are alone in their effort to locate their loved one.

On any given day, there are more than 100,000 active missing-person cases in this country. Just think of that: over 100,000 active cases in this Nation. Every year tens of thousands of people vanish under suspicious circumstances. Equally disturbing is the knowledge that the skeletal remains of more than 40,000 individuals are being stored with coroners, medical examiners, and police departments around

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the country. And these may very well be the very persons that those families are trying to identify. They don't know what happened to their brother, their sister, their mother, their aunt, their uncle, whomever it might be. Many of these jurisdictions do not have the technology to identify these individuals. And even if they do, most States do not require these officials to obtain samples before burying or cremating the remains. Think of that. Your sister could be in the State right next door in the coroner's office or a police station and the remains may be cremated, and you may go the rest of your life and your family never knowing what happened to your sister.

I know the impact of this ineffective model on families, because in my own State of Ohio, a very good friend, somebody that, unfortunately, I have gotten to know through a terrible tragedy in her own family, Deborah Culberson, the mother of a murder victim, Carrie Culberson, has been searching for the remains of her daughter for the last 11 years. While Carrie's murderer will, hopefully, spend the rest of his life in jail, her body has never been found. Moreover, speculation exists that Carrie's remains may be in the State of Kentucky, we really don't know, which does not mandate the same requirements for identifying human remains as my State, Ohio.

Rapidly advancing DNA technology has proven to be a critical tool that law enforcement and families can access to locate and identify individuals and solve cold cases. Yet as Debbie Culberson's search demonstrates, the technology is not being utilized to its fullest. For example, many family members of the missing or unidentified do not know they can provide their own DNA to assist law enforcement. Some law enforcement officials do not know that this DNA technology can assist in solving cold cases. Even if law enforcement knows the technology exists, States may not mandate DNA testing for this segment of the victim population.

We, as elected officials, have a responsibility to take the lead in ensuring, number one, that adequate funding and effective education and training for law enforcement and the public exists; and, two, that all available resources and tools are being used to their fullest ability.

This resolution acknowledges Congress's commitment to these victims and to their families, that it will do everything within its authority to locate, identify, and return these sons, daughters, mothers, and fathers to those families who are still searching for their loved ones.

I urge my colleagues to support this important resolution.

Mr. Speaker, I yield such time as he may consume to the gentleman from Texas, Judge Poe.


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