Police Take New Approach To Missing Persons Cases

Thursday, October 18th 2007, 5:50 pm
By: News On 6

Murder cases are devastating to families and a top priority for detectives. There are families who say not knowing what happened to their loved one is just as agonizing. They are the families of people who are missing. These cases often have often taken a backseat to more immediate cases for investigators, but not anymore. News On 6 crime reporter Lori Fullbright reports Tulsa detectives are revamping their approach to missing person cases, in order to get the answers families so desperately need.

Edward Roden still can't talk about his niece without crying. Kimberly Mullens was 33 and the mother of four children when she disappeared in 1998. She'd given birth to her youngest, just a few weeks before.

"Left her purse behind. Her kids behind. I'm telling you that girl wouldn't have left her kids behind, especially the new born baby,” said her uncle Edward Roden.

Kim Mullens was in an abusive marriage, and family members say they were told she'd run off with another man. They became suspicious and reported her disappearance to police. That was nearly ten years ago. Her family fears the worst.

"If something has happened to her, justice needs to be served over it. Her whole family loves her. She has a right to a decent burial,” said her uncle Edward Roden.

Tulsa's homicide squad room houses notebooks filled with about three dozen missing persons cases that detectives fear are the victims of foul play.

"When you start talking about looking for a needle in a haystack, that's what we do. There are methods we go through to establish they are not in existence," said Tulsa Police Sgt. Mike Huff.

The first step to making these cases a higher priority is to put them on the police department's website so citizens can see pictures, read the stories and send in tips.

Detectives also created a better screening system so they'll know faster which cases are suspicious. Plus, they'll be working with national groups like the DNA Project at the University of North Texas. They collect DNA from unidentified remains and compare it to missing people.

"It is a very hard thing for families to work with. There is no closure here and they know their family member is out there somewhere missing,” said Tulsa Police Sgt. Mike Huff.

Police say 99% of the missing people resurface after a day or two or want to be gone. It's not a crime to be missing. And, people leave for lots of reasons sometimes family or mental health. But, there is still that 1% that is agony for families. For them, any answer is better than not knowing.

To visit the TPD wesite, click here.