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USF scientists, Florida law enforcement partner to host “Missing in Florida Day”

TAMPA, Fla. - The University of South Florida Institute for Forensic Anthropology and Applied Science (IFAAS), along with two dozen Florida law enforcement agencies, medical examiners and non-governmental organizations will partner to host the first ever “Missing in Florida Day” from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 3.

Held at the USF Marshall Student Center Ballroom, located at 4103 USF Cedar Cir. in Tampa, the event aims to draw attention to missing and unidentified persons cases and provide an opportunity for families to come forward to file reports for the first time. The Florida event is modeled after similar successful events held in other states, which have led to positive identifications. A USF campus map can be found here.

The event will begin with a media availability at 10:30 a.m. The speakers include: Erin Kimmerle, Ph.D., USF forensic anthropologist and Director of IFAAS; Sheriff Sadie Darnell, Alachua County Sheriff’s Office and Chair of the Cold Case Advisory Commission; and Hilary Sessions, the mother of Tiffany Sessions, a University of Florida student who disappeared in 1989. The family learned who was responsible for Tiffany’s death 25 years later, though her remains have never been found. Hilary Sessions has become an advocate for missing persons and helped pass critical legislation to aid families.

Law enforcement from around central Florida will be present to meet with families and share information with the public. Organizers hope the event will prompt new missing person investigations and collect necessary identifiers from family members, such as DNA, fingerprints, dentals and photographs, to help solve open cases and to re-open cases that were erroneously closed. Information also will be available to help families preemptively collect identifiers for their children in the case they go missing. There will be bloodhound demonstrations throughout the day in addition to various resources for the prevention of runaways; safety tips to keep autistic children and the elderly from getting lost; information on Amber Alerts; and how law enforcement is combatting human trafficking in Florida.

Currently, more than 3,200 people are missing in the state of Florida. Nationwide, there are more than 84,000 reported missing persons. However, experts say the numbers are underreported because many cases are mishandled, closed or reports are not taken. Meanwhile, it’s estimated there are 40,000 unidentified bodies in the United States – the vast majority of which have not been reported as missing. The National Institute of Justice has called this “The Nation’s Silent Mass Disaster.”

The event on Dec. 3 is free and open to the public. Members of the public will be required to pay for parking on campus, either at a parking meter or by purchasing a $5 daily parking permit at the Campus Information Center. More information can be found on theMissing in Florida Day Facebook page: There is also a Facebook event page and participants are encouraged to use the hashtag #MissinginFL.

The list of partnering agencies and exhibitors includes: IFAAS,, National Institute of Justice, FEMORS (Florida Emergency Mortuary Operations Response System), District 7, 8, and 13 Medical Examiner Offices, St. Petersburg Police Department, FDLE/MEPIC (Florida Department of Law Enforcement Missing Endangered Person Information Clearinghouse), National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), Crisis Center of Tampa Bay, The Spring of Tampa Bay, SafetyNet Tracking Systems, Inc., Crime Stoppers of Tampa Bay, 13th Judicial Circuit State Attorney's Office, Alachua County Sheriff Office, Hernando County Sheriff Office, Hillsborough County Sheriff Office, Pasco Sheriff Office, Pinellas County Sheriff Office, Polk County Sheriff’s Office, Sumter County Sheriff’s office, Tampa Police Department and Temple Terrace Police Department.

The University of South Florida is a high-impact, global research university dedicated to student success. USF is a Top 25 research university among public institutions nationwide in total research expenditures, according to the National Science Foundation. Serving over 48,000 students, the USF System has an annual budget of $1.6 billion and an annual economic impact of $4.4 billion. USF is a member of the American Athletic Conference.


Filed under:Arts and Sciences