Lacie Lowry, News On 6
TULSA, Oklahoma -- Detectives are sorting through missing persons reports for a possible connection to Tuesday's discovery of a human foot in a retention pond.
They're also awaiting DNA analysis on the foot -- so they can turn to the missing person's database. Oklahoma joined last year to help identify the remains of dozens of missing people in the state.
More families may soon get the closure they so desperately need. With huge advances in DNA testing, creating a profile from the remains found in a Tulsa pond will be the easy part.
"A foot in a retention pond isn't going to be any challenge at all," said Dr. Robert Allen, OSU Forensic Sciences. "It's fresh; it hasn't been out exposed to the elements long enough."
Dr. Allen says labs can create a complete DNA profile with as few as 100 human cells -- like a piece of bone the size of a dime.
"Bone, when you think about it, is kind of like encasing DNA in concrete or in a flak jacket," Allen said.
The tricky part is matching that DNA to information already on file. That's where the missing person's database can help.
"The value of the reference database, the surviving family members, and that's really key. You have to start that process earlier than later," he said.
DNA from the missing person or their family is cross-referenced with DNA from the remains to see if there's a match.
The University of North Texas does the DNA work for free. Karen Heim's family went through this six years ago. They submitted their samples to the database when Karen disappeared after a family Christmas.
"Hanging in there, trying to do the best we can and hold together as a family," said Karen's son Ryan Underwood.
They, like so many others, are hoping the database finds a match one day.
"Collecting those samples and getting them tested and getting that information put into a databank is crucial for being successful at identifying folks," Allen said.
Families can contact the OSBI's Unidentified Remains Unit. They'll use a kit and run a swab inside your mouth, then mail it to the University of Texas' missing persons program.