Attorney General Mike Hunter today led a delegation of local and state leaders to announce the group is working with statewide stakeholders to draft legislation to help law enforcement agencies and investigators solve cases that have gone cold, or involve a missing or unidentified person.
The proposed legislation, or Francine’s Law, is named in honor of Francine Frost, who was a missing person in Tulsa for more than three decades until her grandson’s search on the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs), a missing person database that is available for public access, discovered parallels between his grandmother’s case and an unclaimed person case from Muskogee County.
The details of the Muskogee County case that were previously entered into NamUs eventually led to the remains of Frost being exhumed and DNA tested. The test later revealed a match.
Part of the new legislation would require law enforcement agencies statewide to enter all missing persons and unidentified bodies into the NamUs system within 30 days. If the individual is missing under suspicious circumstances or under 18 years-old, the missing person must be entered into the system immediately.
The attorney general was joined by Rep. Rhonda Baker, Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation (OSBI) Director Ricky Adams, District 27 District Attorney Jack Thorp and family members of Francine Frost to announce the initiative, saying it is a step in the right direction to solve more cold cases in the state.
“As state officials, we must do everything in our power to solve crimes and give families much-needed closure,” Attorney General Hunter said. “Unidentified victims or missing persons are not just numbers in a system. They are our friends, neighbors and loved ones. Just because a case is cold doesn’t mean we have given up on it.
“This is a part of a continued effort for my office to put a priority on cold cases through the Criminal Justice Unit and the multicounty grand jury. It is also part of an ongoing commitment to our partnership with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies to share resources and solve difficult cases.”
The most recent session of the multicounty grand jury ended in July. Grand jurors heard three cold cases and issued indictments on all three, including a cold case from 1984 that resulted in the defendant being put in prison for life after being tried by attorneys in the Criminal Justice Unit.
Vicki Curl, daughter of Francine Frost, said no one should go three decades without knowing what happened to a loved one.
“There wasn’t a single day that went by for more than three decades where I didn’t think about my mom or what happened to her,” Curl said. “The pain and emotional torment of not knowing is often times difficult to describe, but the overwhelming emotions of finding her has given my family and I peace of mind. We appreciate the leadership shown today by Attorney General Hunter to get behind this effort, which will help more victims and victims’ families.”
Currently, the only states that mandate the use of NamUs for missing persons are Connecticut, Michigan, New Jersey, New York and Tennessee.
“Lives can be saved with this legislation,” said Rep. Baker, who has agreed to author the legislation. “I look forward to working with my colleagues in the legislature to enact the most comprehensive system to help law enforcement agencies resolve these types of cases.”
OSBI Director Adams said Francine’s Law will give the law enforcement community and investigators another tool to track missing persons and bring people home.
“I am proud to stand with Attorney General Hunter, Rep. Baker and everyone else here today to make a commitment to victims, like the family members of Francine Frost that we are going to do everything we can to resolve these cases,” Director Adams said. “Similar laws have prevailed in other states and continue to help uncover missing individuals. Francine’s Law is a vital piece to solving these puzzling cases. I look forward to working with stakeholders to ensure this legislation works for victims and members of law enforcement. We owe it to victims and we owe it to the community.”
The NamUs database, unlike the similar National Crime Information Center, is open to the public for searching and data input. The database aims to empower family members and friends of missing loved ones with tools and resources to search for those who are missing.
NamUs is funded and administered by the National Institute of Justice, and managed through a cooperative agreement with the University of North Texas Health Science Center.
For more on NamUs, visit https://www.namus.gov/.