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cold cases

Mark Schreiner / WUSF Public Media

Sharon Scott and Sheila Williams of Tampa had been searching for their sister, Brenda Williams, ever since she disappeared in 1978.

Last year, the two had their DNA tested to see if it matched a cold case victim they saw at a University of South Florida symposium. It didn't.

Missing in Florida

According to law enforcement figures, there are more than 3,200 missing persons reported in Florida and over 84,000 nationwide. But those numbers are likely low estimates because cases are either unreported, mishandled or mistakenly closed.

Now, University of South Florida forensic investigators are teaming up with law enforcement to raise awareness of missing and unidentified persons cases.

"Missing in Florida Day" is modeled after similar events held in other states that have led to positive identifications.

Mark Schreiner / WUSF 89.7 News

Forensic artists at a recent workshop hosted by the University of South Florida wrapped up their week of work by presenting their creations - fourteen clay busts of unidentified victims in cold cases - to local law enforcement.

But in the middle of their presentation, a woman looking at one of the works at the rear of a downtown Tampa conference room broke down sobbing, sure that the face staring back at her was that of her sister, some thirty-eight years after she went missing.

Mark Schreiner / WUSF 89.7 News

USF forensic anthropologists are getting extra money to crack cold cases. 

They've been awarded a $386,537 grant from the National Institute of Justice - the research wing of the U.S. Department of Justice - to examine 50 unsolved cases.