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Cold Case Resolutions for the State of New Mexico

Award Information

Award #
Funding Category
Competitive Discretionary
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2023, $999,558)

The purpose of this proposed project is to close cold, unidentified persons cases through a combination of improved inventory, anthropological examination, and DNA analyses, including forensic genetic genealogy (FGG). The Office of the Medical Investigator is a state-wide, centralized medical examiner’s office serving the entire state of New Mexico and parts of Arizona in the Navajo Nation. There are between 198 and 205 cold, unidentified persons cases open in New Mexico. Remains of these individuals are available for anthropological and genetic analyses, as they are stored at the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology. Cases date 1978-2020. The primary activities related to this work are inventory, anthropological analyses, and DNA analyses. The work proposed here will result in a certified inventory.

Many of these cases were originally analyzed using anthropological methods that are not intended for application to the populations found in New Mexico or are now obsolete. The results of these improved biological profile estimations will be uploaded to NamUs and compared with missing persons reports.

A subset of approximately 63 of these cold cases have never had CODIS DNA analyses. These CODIS profiles will be determined, uploaded, and compared with appropriate law enforcement databases. Staff of the New Mexico DNA Information System will upload the CODIS profiles and conduct these comparisons. We expect that these CODIS profiles and anthropological analyses will result in identifications. Additional Y-STR, mtDNA, and FGG analyses will be conducted as appropriate on a prioritized list of remaining cases.

Our expectations are that these combined efforts may lead to the resolution of 45% of longstanding unidentified persons cases in the state of New Mexico. This work will benefit families in our state, likely disproportionately helping Hispanic/Latinx and Native American populations who represent a significant portion of the state’s population as well as the unidentified individuals. Justice outcomes may also result, as identifications of unknown individuals may open new avenues of investigation for law enforcement.

Date Created: September 8, 2023