Internet Cybersleuths Match Evidence To Identify
Kentucky Woman Missing Since 1992
By Penny Dyck

 

 THE MOUNTAINVIEW WEEKLY

It's amazing what the Internet can do for you, or in the case of this
story, for others.

The family of Angela Parks, an unidentified woman from Bowling Green,
Kentucky, who had not been seen by her family since 1992, now has closure on her disappearance thanks to the many people who have volunteered their time and efforts.

A variety of volunteers such as police officers, housewives, medial
examiners, and newspaper reporters can be found at www.doenetwork.org or at Coldcases, a Yahoo Newsgroup. The Doe Network is a volunteer-operated organization that says they have been fortunate enough to work with extremely talented, dedicated and wonderful people involved in the cold cases community, as well as in law enforcement.

The Doe Network website contains an extensive list of approximately 1,000
missing and unidentified individuals from across North America, Australia, and Europe. It was through this website and cross-referencing with missing or unidentified people cold case files from across the US, that they were able to identify Ms. Parks.

Bobby Lingoes, who works for the Quincy, Massachusetts Police Department,
and Helene Wahlstrom, a student of Sweden who has studied literature, philosophy and anthropology, and who is also the webmaster for the website, were instrumental in the discovery of who Angela Parks was. Wahlstrom handpicked the Jane Doe
that was buried in Waco, Texas after being hit by a train in July 1993, and Lingoes submitted the information to the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The match was made using a tattoo comparison. In Canada this similar type of computerized database is called Violent Crime Linkage Analysis System (VICLAS).

Todd Matthews, a quality auditor in Livingston, Kentucky, and who is Co-moderator of the Doe Network and Cold cases sites, has, after more than 10 years of searching, discovered the identity of the infamous "Tent Girl" mystery, a woman who had been dead for 30 years.

Wilbur Riddle, who later became Matthews's father-in-law, had found the
woman's nude body, wrapped in a canvas tent tube, while he was searching for glass electrical insulators along a highway near Georgetown, Ky., in 1968. Authorities investigating her murder were never able to determine her identity. She was to become known only as 'Tent Girl' because of the canvas the murderer had wrapped her in.

Matthews became fascinated by the story of the "Tent Girl" when he heard
about it in 1987, and began collecting information about the unsolved case. "I have a brother and a sister who have both died, and the first thing that crossed by mind when I found out about the Tent Girl, was that she's somebody's sister too, and her family probably haven't any idea whether she's even dead or alive" Matthews has said.

In 1997 Matthews began using Internet technology to cross-reference the
"Tent Girl's" physical characteristics with missing persons' descriptions, and it was at that time that his search began to get results.

Matthews had found enough information on the Internet to lead him to
believe that the "Tent Girl's" real name was actually Barbara Ann Hackman Taylor. A forensic test that matched the "Tent Girl's" DNA with the DNA of Taylor's sister confirmed his belief.

But that experience is only the beginning of Matthews's efforts to try to
help locate missing and unidentified people. Matthews helped to advocate a federal law that would make it mandatory for state governments to report descriptions of all unidentified people, both living and dead, to the Federal Bureau of Investigation's National Crime Information Center.

The law, which was passed in June 1999, was called Jennifer's Law, in
honour of Jennifer, the daughter of Susan Wilmer, who has been missing from California since 1993. During her search for her daughter, Wilmer had spoken to someone who suggested that it might be a possibility that her daughter had been found deceased, and buried as an unidentified person, much like the "Tent Girl" had been. This prompted Ms. Wilmer to suggest the proposed law. Although the NCIC keeps computerized lists of both missing and unidentified people, it is not mandatory for state and local law enforcement agencies to report their findings to the centre. "While the missing persons file is widely utilized by local law enforcement agencies, very few of these same agencies utilize the unidentified person file", reports Wilmer.

"There is a large discrepancy in the number of missing persons and the
number of unidentified persons described on the NCIC lists. That's because the NCIC computer automatically cross-references its descriptions of missing persons with its descriptions of unidentified persons once every day in order to locate possible matches ", Matthews says. "It's estimated, however, that now that Jennifer's Law has passed, it becomes mandatory for state-level law enforcement agencies to report the unidentified people they find, and then thousands of people can be located and identified just with the data currently available to be registered", Matthews concluded.

The family of Angela Parks wants to be able to exhume her remains, and have
it taken back to rest beside her mother in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Matthews says that exhuming a body is an expensive undertaking, and he also says he has to brush
up on the laws of Texas regarding exhuming the body. Her two children, a
son Andrew 14, and a daughter Laura 8, who have lived with their great-aunt Joyce Thomason since Ms. Parks' disappearance, survive Ms.Parks.

The people at the Doe Network are working really hard to identify the
unidentified, and locate the missing, so that more families will have closure in their lives. This is one area of the Internet that you are sure to hear about often.

Their diligence is out-standing. Good work to all on the Doe Network and Coldcases!