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A potential match is a comparison between a missing person and an unidentified person with the possibility that they may be the same person.
The Doe Network ("Doe") operates somewhat differently than other online organizations dedicated to finding missing persons in that Doe potential matches must first pass a panel review before being forwarded to Law Enforcement. This panel review is intended to help ensure that only the best potential matches are submitted to Law Enforcement. Potential matches between unidentified persons and missing persons can be virtually unlimited. Our practice of sending in only the best matches - and not every possibility - is intended to make the best usage of scarce Law Enforcement resources.
The Potential Match Panel is comprised of around a dozen Doe members who are from all walks of life, all ages, all ethnicities, etc. Examples of the occupations of our members include homemakers, retirees, attorneys, members of Law Enforcement, a forensic odonatologist and many others.
There is a submission form for all potential matches that are to be sent into Doe. The form is designed to help the submitter consider the validity of the match he/she is attempting to submit...asking such questions as whether the height, weight, age, hair/eye color, clothing/jewelry agree. Additionally, questions as to the distance involved between the location of the unidentified person and the location from which the missing person went missing are posed to help us assess the potential match. A section is included for the submitter to indicate why he/she feels the match to be credible.
Once this form is submitted, the potential match is checked against NamUs to see if the match has previously been ruled out. The potential match is also checked against our internal database to see if the match has previously been considered by Doe. If the match has not been ruled out by NamUs nor previously been considered by Doe, it is then sent to the Doe Network Potential Match Panel for review.
Once the Potential Match Panel receives the match, each member reviews the submittal and then votes to either (1) submit the match to Law Enforcement or; (2) decline to submit the match to Law Enforcement. In order for a panel member to decline to submit a match, he/she must articulate three reasons for believing that the match is not compelling enough to forward to Law Enforcement. The decision to either accept or reject the match is based on such considerations as timing, distance, age, race, height/weight, hair/eye color, tattoos, clothing, medical information (i.e. scars, previous surgeries, medical conditions) and overall circumstances surrounding the disappearance of the missing person. Panel members will also compare facial features of the missing person to any postmortem pictures or facial reconstructions that might be available.
If a match is accepted by a simple majority of panel members, the match is then submitted to both Law Enforcement agencies involved in the case, i.e. the match would be submitted to the Law Enforcement contact of both the missing person and the unidentified person. From that point, it becomes the option of Law Enforcement as to whether to pursue checking the potential match for validity. Authenticating a match can often take years.
If the potential match results in a confirmed match, the notification to the submitter will be dependent upon permission from the Investigating Agency, as the case may still be an open criminal case.
For any questions regarding potential matches or becoming a member of the panel, please contact our Match Coordinator Mary Bell at marybell(at)doenetwork.org.