The Internet has opened a wide net of resources for people to research, find, and gather information across the world, in a way that simply did not exist just a few decades ago. The internet has become a powerful tool for the public and in private investigations, and a way to network and solve cold cases.
The Doe Network is an online resource that lists cold cases of those who have disappeared or are unidentified decedents. The purpose of the network is to help bring any information to the public in the hope that they can be identified or matched. The files detail physical estimations, age approximations, any tattoos or markings, facial reconstruction or pictures, circumstances around the disappearance, any sightings, and recovery. Through volunteers on the internet and private investigators, any information on a potential match can be submitted to the network, which is reviewed by 16 volunteers. Once enough information on a possible match has been gathered, the findings are sent to the appropriate authorities for further investigation. Countless frequent members, from stay-at-home mothers to bankers, factory workers, and waiters by day, spend their evenings scouring endless reports, newspaper articles, and public information to try to identify countless Does.
As of December 2016, The Doe Network has solved 74 cold cases through their network and assistance. There have been many notable cases from their network, such as a man who vanished after telling his employees his desire to go to Texas to become a cowboy, and became a ranch worker for 21 years. After crashing a tractor in 2007, an insurance agent assigned to his claim researched information on the gentleman and found his picture on the Doe Network. Several cases have been solved through the network’s members’ phenomenal memory and research skills, including a member being able to amazingly recall a tattoo they saw on a decedent on the Doe Network when reviewing a missing persons report, solving the 4-year-old case, and another member identifying 10-year-old unidentified remains from Maryland, based on the congenial brain condition listed on the autopsy matched a scar on the back of the neck in a missing persons report. A cold case on a victim who was murder two years prior was solved through the network by identifying a unique t-shirt on the body and a family reunion event.
These methods of discovery in these cases are bizarre and at worst, coincidental, but were vital in finally placing these unnamed Does to rest. While law enforcement was leery at first to trust these amateur sleuths when the Doe Network launched in 1999, as their solved cases increased by the dozens and they received more media attention, law enforcement agencies are now more open to their help in the most perplexing cold cases that haunt the police’s precincts. With the ability and accessibility to closely network and research on the internet, organizations like The Doe Network are finally bringing light on some of the oldest and toughest cases.