NM Senator Martin Heinrich Visits OMI to Discuss Improving Identification for Missing and Murdered American Indians Project Using Newly Developed New Mexico Decedent Image Database

Departmental News

Posted:  Jul 12, 2021 - 12:00pm

U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) visited the Office of Medical Investigator (OMI) at The University of New Mexico recently to see the work being done by forensic anthropologist Heather Edgar and her team to improve the identification of Native American remains and resolve missing persons cases.

Edgar worked with many at UNM to create the New Mexico Decedent Image Database  (NMDID), which includes thousands of whole-body CT scans. Each scan contains about 10,000 images of a single body. The scans are valuable in many research areas, including developing methods to help make positive identifications of unknown deceased people.  Anthropologists compare unknown individuals to data about known individuals, narrowing the pool of missing persons for comparison using estimates of sex, age, and other characteristics. But in some cases, such as for Native Americans, there is an inadequate comparison sample size, leading to misidentification or delays in identification.

Her new project, “Improving Identification for Missing and Murdered American Indians," uses pre-existing post mortem CT scans and collects measurements from American Indians who have died in New Mexico from 2010-2017. Improving the available knowledge base for the identification of otherwise unidentified American Indian and Hispanic/Latino human remains is critical to helping solve crimes and rendering appropriate justice for disadvantaged populations in New Mexico.  Read the full article