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Funding for cold cases, missing persons getting cut

OKLAHOMA - Anthropologists in our state said it will be a blow to solving cold cases in our state.

They’ve just learned a federal grant that funds DNA testing for missing persons will no longer be funded.

The grant is through the National Institute of Justice and is called Using DNA Technology To Identify the Missing.

It provides $4.7 million for the entire country and has been in existence since 2004.

Oklahoma has been using the grant since 2009, and anthropologists with the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner said it has helped identify dozens of missing people.

“We need this grant,” said anthropologist Angela Berg.

Berg said the grant helped identify six people pulled from the bottom of Foss Lake in their cars in 2013.

They’d been missing for 40 years.

The grant also helped ID two Oklahoma City women and one girl found buried in a field in Jennings, Oklahoma also in 2013.

Those three had been missing for more than 20 years.

“There are families out there waiting to find out if remains could be their loved one,” Berg said.

This grant allows Berg to submit skeletal remains to a University of North Texas lab that helps identify people through DNA and is funded through this grant.

“Our technology is evolving and becoming so wonderful, and now we have no monies to fund this and that’s heartbreaking,” Berg said.

It’s especially heartbreaking for people like Carla Eastep.

Her son, Tommy Eastep, vanished about three years ago from the Lake Eufala area.

She and other family members have submitted DNA to a national database.

But, she’s fearful, without this grant, if Tommy is ever found, his remains will not get submitted.

“It’s a stab in the heart is what it is,” Carla said. “If they do away with that, there’s a chance we’ll never find out what happened to him and that’s just wrong.”

Carla has kept a scrapbook of every story, every possible lead on her son and never giving up hope he’ll be found.

She now plans to fight for the people who rely on this grant money.

“Families that need to know what happened to their family members,” Carla said.

“This is really important,” Berg said.

Berg plans to do the same, saying every body deserves a name, every crime deserves to be solved.

The funding for the grant is set to expire in October 2017.