By Gina Yarbrough
SAN DIEGO—It’s hard to imagine what San Diego families go through emotionally when searching for missing family members who vanish without a trace.
In San Diego county, there are 3,175 active missing person reports dating back to the 1950s. Some of those people may have disappeared under suspicious circumstances, or were just never heard from again. Some may have a missing person report filed on them with the Sheriff’s department, or law enforcement agencies, while others were never reported, were not missed for some time, or their family is fearful of law enforcement.
To help families find closure, the San Diego County Medical Examiner, in partnership with regional law enforcement agencies, have launched its first annual Identify the Missing Day.
Families from San Diego, and other neighboring counties are invited to attend Saturday’s free 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. event, officials say. Law enforcement investigators want biological relatives of missing loved ones with unsolved cases to visit the Medical Examiner’s office, located at 5570 Overland Avenue in Kearny Mesa. The investigators will take new reports, or update existing missing persons cases with new information, medical or dental records, photographs or DNA from family members. The Mexican consulate will be on site to assist families from Mexico with missing reports on loved ones. Authorities also will provide Spanish language translators.
“There are far more missing people than there are dead individuals we’re trying to identify,” said
Dr. Glenn Wagner, County Chief Medical Examiner at a press conference Monday morning. “The data bases that are a possibility from the input from individual filing of missing persons is shared, not just locally, or regionally, but nationally and worldwide.”
Dr. Wagner added that missing person reports date back to 1958. Today’s technology has allowed investigators to use samples of DNA from the remains.
Milan “John” Nellans, whose son, John Patrick, 20, disappeared from his Clairmont home in 1985, recently received notification from authorities that a body found near Clairmont in 2000 was his son.
“Medical Examiner came out to my house here a month ago and gave me the news. It’s has been very difficult. You cry a lot. It’s some closure for our family,” Nellans said. “Being a parent you know your children are there and when they are missing you just don’t know what really is going to happen.”
Similar DNA identification events have been held in San Bernardino and Orange County in California. Both events successfully matched families with remains of unidentified.