Nearly 60 representatives from 18 agencies have more weapons in their arsenals to solve cold cases after training with experts in Wagoner on May 8. The training, held at the Wagoner Civic Center, is intended to help law enforcement prepare for Francine’s Law.
“Now that Oklahoma is one of a handful of states to fully exploit the NamUs database, we wanted law enforcement agencies to have the tools to hit the ground running,” said District 27 District Attorney Jack Thorp, who was instrumental in helping to pass Francine’s Law in Oklahoma.
Thorp’s office organized the cold case training.
“By the grace of God, through the hard work of law enforcement and our coordinator, Vicky Lyons, and with the assistance of Attorney General Mike Hunter and his multicounty grand jury, District 27 has solved six cold cases,” Thorp said.
The district attorney credited Hunter with shepherding Francine’s Law, which sailed through Oklahoma’s legislature and was signed into law on April 15. Senior Deputy Attorney General Joy Pittman-Thorp was on hand to discuss her plans to spearhead Attorney General Hunter’s cold case efforts in Eastern Oklahoma.
Trainers helped investigators prepare for the new requirement to enter cases into the NamUs database within 30 days.
Tulsa Police Cpl. Joe Campbell provided valuable tips on investigating missing and unidentified persons cases, while Oklahoma Highway Patrol Lt. James Loftis spoke about emergency operations missing persons searches.
FBI Special Agent Adam Reynolds shared the Muskogee Child Abduction Response Team’s experiences with high-profile cases, including some of the ploys predators have used to bait their victims.
Oklahoma Chief Medical Examiner Anthropologist Angela Berg provided strategies to investigate cases involving unidentified remains. She also shared insights into how the Oklahoma medical examiner’s office identifies victims.
Veteran detective and NamUs administrator Mike Nance discussed the features and successes of the actual NamUs database.
“We have access to this huge repository of information, but only a quarter of Oklahoma’s missing or unidentified murder victims were entered into NamUs before Francine’s Law,” said Thorp of the public website where the family of Francine Frost, a 44-year-old nurse who disappeared after leaving home for a grocery store in 1981, found stunning resolution.
Frost’s family agonized for 30 years over Francine’s whereabouts, until they discovered the NamUs website, and the heartbreaking reality that her case could have been solved 28 years earlier.
According to NamUs, Muskogee County authorities found the body of an unidentified woman, which turned out to be Francine Frost, just two years after she disappeared.
“As ever-growing caseloads force us to file away cases as cold, it behooves us to remember that for too many of our constituents, like Francine Frost’s family, time stands still from the moment they’re devastated by loss, to the day they have answers,” Thorp said. “We want families of long-ago murdered victims to know we remain dedicated to finding answers to the questions that still burn in their souls. We believe Francine’s Law helps send that message.”
Jack Thorp is the District Attorney for District 27 which comprises Adair, Cherokee, Sequoyah, and Wagoner Counties.