Organization looks to aid with missing persons

Jennifer Lynn Jackson Floyd

What became of them, no one seems to know. At least, no one who might know is admitting knowing. Lee County has three well documented missing-person cases. Whether they will be found or their fate will be uncovered is, at this point, questionable. Jennifer Lynn Jackson Floyd, 18, disappeared on April 18, 1988. Leigh Marine Occhi, 13, disappeared on August 27, 1992. Demakia Ann Phinizee, 26, disappeared on October 12, 2007. Floyd and Occhi were last seen in Tupelo, while Phinizee was last seen near her home in Verona. All three of them are listed with an organization, NamUs, that seeks to list all the nation’s missing persons and “remains found” in one database. The group, accessed at www.namus.gov, is administered by the National Institute of Justice and managed through a cooperative agreement with the University of North Texas Health Science Center. The NamUs program is funded through the National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Program and the U.S. Department of Justice. According to Amy Dobbs, regional program specialist for NamUs, the organization lists 112 missing persons in Mississippi but she said there are likely many more known primarily to local law enforcement agencies. NamUs’ goal is to urge state legislatures to pass laws requiring those local agencies to report their missing person cases – including the records of found human remains – to the national database. Dobbs said there is no official effort to conceal the existence of those cases; jurisdictions, especially smaller, more rural are just not aware of the availability of NamUs resources. “Mississippi has no state legislation,” Dobbs said. She said there are numerous states in the process of passing such legislation while others already have. Capt. Charles McDougald, Tupelo Police Department public information officer, said he and his department are unaware of the NamUs organization and its efforts at consolidation. “How can you not support this?” asked Tupelo Police Chief Bart Aguirre. “It would give these cases exposure to the public (and law enforcement).” He added that both the Floyd and Occhi cases remain open; leads continue to trickle in on them, more for Occhi, but Aguirre said few leads offer any new information. Verona Police Chief J.B. Long said the Phinizee case also remains open: “There have been some leads through the years,” he said, “but nothing much ever comes up.” Floyd left her job at Hancock Fabrics the morning she was last seen, visibly upset according to some of her coworkers. Extensive searches of the surrounding area yielded no clues or trace of the woman. Occhi disappeared from her home in west Tupelo on the morning Hurricane Andrew was blowing through the area. In spite of clues such as bloodstains found in the house and some other anomalies such as her eyeglasses mailed to the residence some days after her disappearance, no traces of the teenager have ever turned up. Phinizee was last seen on Ida Street near the school on Filmore Drive where she was employed. Her 2001 Pontiac Grand Am coupe was later found at some apartments on Jackson Street in Tupelo. Witnesses at the time said the car entered the complex at a high rate of speed, driven by a black male who ran off after parking the vehicle. “I’d be behind this,” Representative Steve Holland said of including Mississippi in the NamUs effort. “It makes sense to report your missing. I would not hesitate to file a bill about this.” The statistics of missing persons is staggering. Approximately 600,000 individuals go missing in the United States every year. Many missing children and adults are quickly found alive and well. Tens of thousands of individuals, however, remain missing for more than one year – what many agencies consider “cold cases.” It is estimated that 4,400 unidentified bodies are recovered each year, with approximately 1,000 of those bodies remaining unidentified after one year. Another estimate counts 40,000 unidentified remains in medical examiner and coroner offices throughout the nation; those remains and missing persons records would be included in the all-encompassing NamUs database.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.