DNA Project May Help Families Of Missing

Wednesday, April 9th 2008, 6:27 pm
By: News On 6

A national DNA initiative hopes to finally get answers to the thousands of families who have a missing loved one.  It is such a big problem one group calls it America's silent mass disaster.  The News On 6's crime reporter Lori Fullbright reports on one hand, medical examiner offices everywhere have remains that aren't identified and on the other hand, families have loved ones who have disappeared without a trace.

The goal is to use DNA to match them.

Even though Kathleen Henson would be 60 now, her family will always think of her in her 30's, because that was her age when she and her baby son, Royce, disappeared from Tulsa.

 That was March 23rd, 1979, and since then, no bodies, no sightings, just fears, rumors and gut instincts about their fate.

Kathleen also had a nine-year-old son when she went missing.  Eamon was in fourth grade and used to tell his friends, his mom was on a trip.  He's now an adult, but has the same sad eyes.  Growing up without a mother, a baby brother or any answers, isn't easy.

"Lot of ups and downs, by the skin of my teeth, our teeth, more or less and being open to things bigger than me, having friends and family made a big difference. Despite our losses, we became closer." said Eamon Henson, the son of Kathleen Henson.

Eamon was glad to give his DNA to Tulsa Police this week as part of the president's initiative.  DNA is collected from surviving family members and sent to the Center for Human Identification at the University of North Texas.

They put the information in CODIS, the national database.   DNA from remains also goes into the system and hopefully, there will be matches.

Eamon Henson and Bill Higginbotham, Kathleen's father, believe her abusive boyfriend, who was also the father of baby, Royce, had her killed.

They wonder if Royce died, too or was raised elsewhere and could be out there somewhere.  They say answers would be better than the what-ifs.

"I think what makes me maddest is not having a place to put the sadness. Other people are going to do what they're going to do, you can't control that.  But it does.  I do get real angry. Most of that's not having a place to put all the baggage sometimes." said Eamon Henson.

Tulsa police have already gotten DNA samples from eight families through this federally funded project and plan to do more. They have about 20 cases where they believe the missing person has been the victim of foul play.

If you have information about Kathleen Henson or any other missing person's case, call Crimestoppers at 596-COPS.