James Eli Shiffer, the Star Tribune’s watchdog and data editor, digs into data and documents to uncover the news. Reach him at 612-673-4116, james.shiffer@startribune.com or follow him on Twitter at @jameselishiffer. Tell us what to investigate. Send your story tips to whistleblower@startribune.com.

Vanished Minnesotans: 147 missing persons

Posted by: James Eli Shiffer Updated: June 12, 2014 - 3:10 PM

This week's renewed search for a Maple Grove girl who disappeared 25 years ago and the discovery of the bones of a missing man in Lakeville last month made me wonder how many Minnesotans are currently considered missing persons. Minnesota's state clearinghouse only displays about 70 faces. I found a more comprehensive list at the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs), a web site that collects information from medical examiners and law enforcement around the country. It has two main categories of data: missing persons, and unidentified remains. There's a smaller third group, called "unclaimed persons," in which people are identified, but no one has come forward to take possession of the remains.

The Minnesota missing persons list includes 147 names, dating back to June 14, 1963, the day Martin Franzel, then 77, took his usual early morning walk in Minneapolis and vanished without a trace. The most recent addition is Cody Christle, 20, who was last seen leaving a relative's home in Hinckley on foot on May 12 of this year. The youngest were 2-year-old Aaron Anderson, last seen playing in his yard in Pine City on April 7, 1989, and 2-year-old Kyle Jansen, whose footprints were found leading down to the bank of the Maple River in Mankato on Dec. 22, 1991.

I look at each one of these faces and imagine the circles of grief in the families and friends left behind. Remarkably, this kind of national clearinghouse has only been around for nine years or so, but it's already contributing to a phenomenon of the modern age: advances in communication and forensic science mean it's harder than ever to remain a missing person in America. 

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