Stephen Fonseca is the head of the BC Coroners identification and disaster response unit and tries very hard to identify the unknown remains that are found in BC. Stephen has developed a computer program that profiles missing persons much the same way that detectives profile a serial killer. When a person is reported missing the information, including the description, age of the missing person and where they went missing is put into the computer program. When a body is found the description is compared to the missing persons on file. (Currently there is no national data base for missing people of Canada, however there is a data base for criminals of Canada.)
November 2010 there was a body of a man found in Prince George. The body of a male, that could be of African descent, had been dead for several weeks when a hiker made the gruesome discovery. The body had no identification but did have a map of Prince George so more than likely this unidentified man is not from the Prince George area. Stephen plugged the details of the body found into the computer program but there was no conclusive match. This unknown body has now been added to the approximate 200 cases the coroner already has on file, a list that grows by three to five people every year. Some of the missing person files date back to 1960 and the relatives of the missing are still hoping for a answers to their loved one that disappeared many years ago.“It’s a heavy responsibility to carry when they expect you to find the connection between the unidentified remains and their loved ones,” says Steven Fonseca. “We get queries from the public every day.”
Last year there was a case of a missing Okanagan man from 1959 that was solved.“He drove off a floating bridge while he was rushing to pick up some medicine,” said Fonseca. “It was a very tragic story.”
Steven was able to match the remains that were found in 1987 in the Okanagan Lake to the missing man by using his computer program and DNA from the missing mans children.
DNA technology was not available when this man went missing in 1959 and this story proves how important it is to have a DNA data bank of all the missing persons. More than likely the DNA samples will need to be from the missing persons family unless the DNA of the missing person is available.
Hopefully once we have a DNA data base for missing persons the 200 unidentified remains will shrink considerably. Here is a link to a petition started by Judy Peterson, her daughter Lindsey went missing in 1993.