Never Forgotten: How the State Crime Lab works with law enforcement on missing persons cases

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark.- The Arkansas State Crime Lab works with law enforcement all over the Natural State on missing persons cases, but answers aren’t always possible. 

“To this date, we still don’t know where she’s at,” says Lt. Duane Tarbet, with the Hot Springs Police Department. 

Jeffrey Lynn Smith seemed to just vanish. 

“Nobody seemed to know where she went,” says Lt. Tarbet. 

Smith was last seen with her boyfriend on Silver Street in Hot Springs, December 4th, more than three decades ago. 

“She’s been missing since 1985 and she’ll always be in the database as a missing person until the day that she’s found,” says Lt. Tarbet. 

Kermit Channel is executive director of the Arkansas State Crime Lab, as essential resources for law enforcement agencies.

“We have to determine who is this individual and we do that by our scientific testing,” says Channel.  

Often it’s skeletal remains the crime lab is tasked with identifying.  Sometimes the job gets more complicated than others and many times it’s just bone fragments they’re working with.  

In some cases, all they can do is build a DNA profile and update the national database. 

In the case of Jeffrey Lynn, she was never seen again. No part of her. 

“We have no physical evidence at all,” says Lt. Tarbet, “that’s what’s been so frustrating in this case.” 

He says Jeffrey’s case was initially worked as a runaway, but quickly shifted to a missing person.  

Eventually, her case went cold. 

Years later in 2008, it was reopened with a potential lead to a body, but still nothing. Three more years passed and there was another in-depth search of the same area in 2011.

“We searched this area with cadaver dogs,” says Lt. Tarbet.  

At one point in the city of Hot Springs, a human skull was found and sent to the lab at the University of North Texas. 

“They were able to identify the approximate age and the race and that it was a female skull,” says Lt. Tarbet, “but were never able to determine who it belonged to.”

It was ruled out as Jeffrey because the age and race didn’t match.  

Both Channel and Lt. Tarbet understand the value of modern science and how it can solve cold cases.

Unfortunately in the case of Jeffrey Lynn, like so many others, until they have that tiny bit of physical evidence to work with the case remains frozen. 

According to Channel, in missing person cases it’s important for family members to submit DNA samples so that if remains are recovered they can test against family samples for comparison to help with identification.

Jeffrey Lynn’s sister, her only living immediate family member submitted DNA back in 2011, but no match has ever turned up. 

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