Professor of Biology and Anthropology and Director of the University of Indianapolis’ Human Identification Center Krista Latham leads the Identify Indiana Initiative, according to UIndy360. Latham said in about 2016, she and a coroner started talking about how many people volunteer their time to solve cold cases.
According to UIndy360, the Human Identification Center works with law enforcement to provide DNA profiles and forensic anthropology for free. UIndy students are often on the scene with last responders to provide help with forensic anthropology, according to the article. When Latham took over the HIC, the article said, she realized there were a lot of cold cases, and that is how the Identify Indiana Initiative started.
“I talked about how we had a large number of cold cases in our laboratory and we thought that it would be good to formalize those efforts into an organization,” Latham said. “So we essentially came up with the Identify Indiana Initiative.”
According to Latham, the team is made up of scientists, coroners and law enforcement agents who want to investigate these cases with new technology. She said it deals with bodies that were discovered before the new scientific technology was made.
“We’re just revisiting those cases and making sure that we are reanalyzing them with all the different tools and resources that are available,” Latham said.
Latham said the first step to any case is to get coroner permission. All funding, tests and decisions have to go through the coroner’s office. The second step is to see if the remains have a DNA profile in the Combined DNA Index System, according to Latham, and obstacles arise when there is no DNA profile. CODIS is free through the coroner’s office, Latham said, but genetic genealogy can cost up to $10,000. CODIS is a national database, and it allows comparison of different samples and allows an unidentified body to be compared to any reference samples.
The goal of the Identify Indiana Initiative is to identify these individuals and send them back to their families, Latham said. According to a Fox59 article, the purpose is to build a DNA profile for every unidentified person across the state.
“When I took over directorship of the Human Identification Center, half my evidence room was full of cold cases,” Latham said. “So my goal is to be able to identify all those individuals and repatriate them to their families.”
According to the Fox59 article, there are more than 600 unidentified bodies in evidence boxes across Indiana. The Identify Indiana Initiative is trying to get that number to zero, the article said, and the end goal is to get people back to their rightful place.
UIndy consults with every county coroner in Indiana, Latham said, because the campus has the only forensic anthropology lab in the state of Indiana, and they average about 100 cases per year. She said there is also a DNA laboratory on campus that advanced undergraduates or graduate students in the human biology program get hands-on case experience.
According to UIndy360, by starting the Identify Indiana Initiative, Latham began working with local medico legal agencies to reinvestigate these cold cases using new technology and she saw an opportunity to help her community and help families get closure which she did not hesitate to begin.