NamUs Media Contact:
Communications and Outreach Manager
For Immediate Release - December 7, 2012
FORT WORTH, TX – With the help of public exposure, the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) helped to resolve a 32-year-old case. Remains located on August 31, 1980 along the shore of the Delaware River in New Jersey were identified as Joseph Formica, Jr. Formica was last seen at his home in Northampton Township, Pennsylvania on August 24, 1980.
The eyes of the public are one of many ways that NamUs helps solve cases. A private citizen saw similarities between this missing person from Pennsylvania and the unidentified body found in New Jersey. Circumstances, timing and similar physical descriptors of the two individuals were factors in the suggested match. The tipster also noticed that Formica's NamUs profile indicated that he liked water sports; the unidentified body was wearing swimming trunks.
The citizen contacted NamUs to report the tip. At that time, Regional System Administrator (RSA) Emily Craig passed the information along to New Jersey State Police Forensic Anthropologist Donna Fontana, MS. After receiving the tip, Fontana contacted officials at Northampton Township Police in Pennsylvania and discovered that they had fingerprints for Mr. Formica which had not yet been uploaded to his NamUs profile. Officials at Northampton Township Police Department emailed the fingerprints to Fontana for comparison. Fontana contacted the New Jersey State Police Crime Scene Investigations Central Unit, which compared the prints and made a fingerprint association. The Hunterdon County Medical Examiner made the positive identification on December 4, 2012.
Fontana states, "Packing the NamUs record with physical characteristics including medical, dental, scientific, and circumstantial information can only help to identify the thousands of missing and unidentified cases in this country. NamUs allows the public to assist law enforcement which, in this case, led to an identification of a 32 year old missing person case."
Detective John Gross of Northampton Township Police Department states, "I appreciate all the hard work getting things on the [NamUs] site and placing the DNA into the National Database and the many other things you folks do. I also appreciate the dedication from all parties involved, [including] New Jersey State Police Forensic Anthropologist Donna Fontana and her diligent work in this case. Thanks to everyone; it's definitely a group effort in these types of cases."
RSA Craig concludes, "The coordination of efforts with this case is a blueprint for success. The best of technology and humanity came together to solve a problem."
About the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System
The National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) is funded by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) and managed through a cooperative agreement with the University of North Texas (UNT) Health Science Center. NamUs serves as a national clearinghouse for information related to missing persons and unidentified decedents. The NamUs databases can be searched by anyone; however, sensitive case information is restricted to medical examiners, coroners, law enforcement personnel, missing person clearinghouse personnel and allied forensic specialists. NamUs provides case management, analytical services and forensic resources, including odontology, fingerprint examination, anthropology* and DNA*. All NamUs services and resources are provided at no cost through funding by the NIJ. To learn more about NamUs, call the NamUs toll-free hotline at 1-855-626-7600 or visit the NamUs website at www.NamUs.gov.
* Anthropology and DNA services are provided by the UNT Center for Human Identification with funding by the National Institute of Justice (award number 2011-MU-BX-K063).