A new project by the state is trying to reconnect families with loved ones who disappeared years ago.
The Tennessee Department of Health is hosting events across the state in hopes of matching forensic evidence from families to a national database of unidentified remains.
Constance Toliver’s son Charlie disappeared from his East Tennessee home in 2000, leaving only his dog behind. More than 17 years later, Toliver still hasn’t found closure.
“Nobody’s ever [going to] find my son," she says. "And I can’t seem to pull myself together on that."
Toliver is one of hundreds of Tennessee residents with missing relatives, many of them having disappeared years ago. And as more time passes, solving those cases gets difficult as investigators hit snags and cases change hands. Toliver says that’s what happened with her son’s investigation.
“They’ve let something very horrible slip through the cracks,” she says.
That’s why the Department of Health created Missing Persons Day. The event is a corollary to the new Help Find the Missing Act, which requires Tennessee forensic centers to more frequently update a national database of unidentified remains.
Residents who turn up at the events can submit any evidence they have – photographs, medical records, even their own DNA – in hopes that it matches remains in the database.
Toliver and her husband had their cheeks swabbed at the Knoxville event last month with no match, and she’s still not sure that a match would give her the closure she really needs.
“They would have to convince me for sure that this was my son," she says.
Still, she says, any update at all will give her some peace of mind.
The Department of Health is holding Nashville’s Missing Person Day on October 13th.