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Missing Persons Expert Says Finding Unidentified Bodies Is Common



This week searchers in Jacksonville found the remains of two men while looking for missing toddler Lonzie Barton.

On Monday, police found the first body in the woods near the Avenues Mall. It’s believed to be a man, but it has not yet been identified. Some suspect the remains belong to Navy Chief Petty Officer Kevin Williams who went missing two years ago.

The next day divers found a second body in a car submerged in a retention pond off Bowden Road. Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Investigations Chief Tom Hackney says the car is linked to a 2003 missing persons case.

Hackney says JSO does exhaustive searches in every missing persons case.

  “Some of those are at a different level, and a different scale than this, and it’s not because on case is less important than the other,” Hackney said.

Todd Mathews works for the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, a resource center that keeps records of unidentified remains.

Matthews says it’s very common to find unidentified bodies while searching for a different missing person.

“You know you can only look where you have reason to believe somebody should be here or there,” Matthews said. “You know we can’t comb the entire state with every person that’s missing, and often they’re found in places where you really didn’t expect them to be.”

Matthews says there is always room for improvement in missing persons cases, but he believes most law enforcement agencies do a fairly good job.

“We can always work a little harder, a little smarter, but it’s going to happen,” Matthews said. “We’re going to run across bodies, it’s unintentionally all the time. It’s very, very normal.”

He says hunters and other people who enjoy spending time outdoors will sometimes come across a body. Matthews suggests to immediately call local officials if anyone sees something that looks like human remains, even if they are unsure.