BATON ROUGE- Using dental records, fingerprints and medical records while working with families to discover unique characteristics and analyzing personal effects, forensic experts at the Victim Identification Center in Carville, Louisiana continue to discover the identities of Louisiana citizens who died during Hurricane Katrina.
In addition, officials with the Louisiana State Police and the Victim Identification Center in Carville learned today of the first DNA match and subsequent identification since special DNA contracts were signed in December.
According to records provided by Dr. Louis Cataldie, State Medical Examiner, who also heads the medical team at the Carville morgue, in the weeks since Oct. 21, the number of human remains that have been positively identified has increased from 158 then to 735 as of today. In addition, the number of unidentified remains has decreased from 705 to 170.
The chart below outlines the number of identifications that have been made due to forensic techniques including dental records and fingerprints. In most cases, several techniques are necessary to confirm an identity.
Methods of Identification
# of IDs confirmed
Personal Effects 405
Field Case Notes 284
These records supplied by the LA State Police Crime Lab.
Dental Records 104
These IDs were made from 200 dental records obtained in the field. Recently, DMORT obtained 20,000 additional records.
* includes a DNA match made in Sept. by the LSP Crime Lab.
Once a week, the Department of Health will continue to issue reports that outline the progress being made at Carville Victim Identification Center. Updated statistics also can be found daily at the LDH Web site, www.katrinamissing.dhh.louisiana.gov under the “Deceased Reports” link.
Cataldie attributes most of the success to the staff’s dedicated efforts to obtain dental records, medical records and fingerprint information from medical and dental facilities, government agencies and private businesses located throughout the country. A majority of the medical and dental records were retrieved from dentists’ and doctors’ offices in the New Orleans area, many of which were flooded or destroyed by the storm.
“Dental records have proven to be one of the most successful ways to confirm an identity, he said. “From using complete dental histories to a photograph of only one extracted tooth, we have been able to make a positive match.”
In addition to dental records, DMORT staff has access to a number of public and private databases. When a presumptive identification is made or is known, investigators use these databases to search for the deceased individual’s next-of-kin. When a relative is found, the investigators then ask questions and obtain information that can be used to make a positive match.
When all other means have been exhausted, a technique call kinship DNA analysis will be used to assist in the identification of victims. This process involves analyzing DNA from family members and then comparing these samples to DNA taken from the unidentified deceased. Unlike the DNA matching in criminal investigations, profiles from victim samples will not directly match profiles from family members. Thus, using the DNA profiles of several family members, genetic experts then develop a family pedigree. This process does not lead to an exact DNA match, but to the probability of a match.
With less than 100 human remains currently at the morgue that do not have possible identifying information (leads), the family pedigree process is necessary to help make a positive identification.
Dr. Cataldie explains that family members who have not yet received information about the whereabouts of a missing loved one may be contacted to provide a DNA sample.
“At the Find Family National Call Center, DNA specialists are creating these genetic family trees of those who are unidentified. These family trees are then used to determine which family members would be the best candidates to provide a sample,” he said.
DNA collection (mouth swabs) is being performed at the Find Family National Call Center in Baton Rouge. Family members living outside of the Baton Rouge are asked to contact the Find Family Center (866-326-9393) to set up an appointment to submit a DNA sample in the area where they live.
According to Dr. Cataldie, making a positive match through kinship DNA analysis is very time-consuming.
“Because this process does not determine an exact match, and because the tests require complicated analysis and interpretation of the results, making a final match may take months,” he added.