The Doe Network

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The Doe Network
Formation 1999
Founder Jennifer Marra (Web Site Founder); Helene Wahlstrom and Todd Matthews (Volunteer Group Co-Founders) [1]
Purpose Body identification
Headquarters Livingston, Tennessee[2]
Website Official website

The Doe Network is a non-profit organization of volunteers who work with law enforcement to connect missing persons cases with John/Jane Doe cases.[3][4][5]


The site features cold case disappearances and unidentified decedents, in hopes to create awareness for such cases and to generate potential leads.[6] Those documented have occurred during or before the year 2013. Case files are created for both unidentified and missing persons, detailing physical estimations of the subjects as well as circumstances of the disappearance, sightings and recovery of the unidentified subjects.[7][8] Images of the missing and unidentified, including forensic facial reconstructions, tattoos, and age progressions are also available for cases.[9][3][10] Cases of murder conviction without a body are also listed, although their cases have been solved, as the victim could possibly remain unidentified.[11] The site provides an online form for visitors to submit potential matches between missing and unidentified persons, which are subsequently reviewed by volunteers prior to submission to authorities.[2][12] After the form is completed by a reader, 16 members of the Doe Network's administrative panel evaluate the importance of the possible match and whether or not to submit it to investigators handling the case.[13] The Web site also works alongside other databases, such as the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System and the NCIC.[2][14][3] The Doe Network features worldwide cases and is also presented in various languages.[4][15]

Since the launch of the Doe Network, over 600 people have volunteered.[2] Members are selected after applications are submitted and background information is confirmed. A core team organizes information that is published on the Web site, compiling approved information received from other members.[6]


The Doe Network was created in 1999 by Jennifer Marra of Michigan [16] as a Web site database for international long-term missing persons and unidentified victims. Marra turned control of the site over to Helene Wahlstrom of Sweden in 2001.[16] Wahlstrom then joined forces with the Cold Cases Yahoo! group headed by Todd Matthews of Tennessee, thereby creating the volunteer group aimed at finding potential matches between missing persons and unidentified victims. [13][17][18][19][9] Matthews had assisted in the identification of Barbara Ann Hackmann Taylor, previously nicknamed as "Tent Girl," in 1998, which had inspired him to create a website to help solve similar cases.[2][20][21] Matthews also co-founded a different organization, known as Project EDAN (Everyone Deserves a Name), which consists of a group of forensic artists.[22]

The Doe Network now has members worldwide, including volunteers from all 50 US states. [13]

Since the start of the Web site, many have acknowledged the importance of such an organization.[23] The Doe Network lists 82 successful identity resolutions assisted by its volunteers; 36 occurred within the first five years of the group's formation.[2][20] Resolved cases include Deanna Criswell, found in 1987 and identified in 2015, Samantha Bonnell, and Dorothy Gay Howard, found in 1954 and identified in 2009.[24][25] Criswell was identified after family members came upon the case file of the unidentified teen and later submitted a possible connection between the two.[26] Samantha Bonnell's mother recognized a reconstruction created by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children on the file of her daughter.[13] Various other cases have been solved in a similar way, often when loved ones or those investigating the disappearance of a missing individual discover a case file on the website that details a case similar to their missing companion or family member.[27][7][28][29]

The Doe Network has received criticism, as many officials note that they received significant amounts of information "that can be annoying," as Matthews stated in an interview with National Public Radio in 2008.[6][13]

In popular culture[edit]


  1. ^ Deborah Halber (1 July 2014). The Skeleton Crew: How Amateur Sleuths Are Solving America’s Coldest Cases. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 978-1-4516-5760-9. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f Alligood, Leon (6 March 2006). "Volunteers match found bodies, missing persons". USA Today. Retrieved 23 July 2015. 
  3. ^ a b c "About Us". The Doe Network. Retrieved 22 July 2015. 
  4. ^ a b George, Cindy (25 April 2010). "ID of missing Houston woman's remains renews hunt for killer". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved 23 July 2015. 
  5. ^ Friess, Steve (25 January 2004). "To identify 'John Doe' victims, investigators turn to the Web". Boston Globe. Retrieved 23 July 2015. 
  6. ^ a b c "Amateur Detectives Help ID John and John Doe". National Public Radio. 3 April 2008. Retrieved 23 July 2015. 
  7. ^ a b Sullivan, Dan (26 September 2011). "Brandon man wonders if slain Mississippi woman is his missing sister". Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved 22 July 2015. 
  8. ^ "Criteria For Case Files". The Doe Network. Retrieved 22 July 2015. 
  9. ^ a b Griffin, Drew (7 June 2005). "Security Watch'; The Doe Network". CNN News. CNN. Retrieved 22 July 2015. 
  10. ^ Martinez, Diana (19 November 2010). "Remains in Arizona that of man who vanished in 1995". AZ Central. Retrieved 23 July 2015. 
  11. ^ Bixler, Liz (7 July 2011). "Still on the case". Half Moon Bay Review. Retrieved 22 July 2015. 
  12. ^ Sullivan, Ted (25 April 2010). "John Doe cold case shrouded in mystery". Gazette Xtra. Retrieved 23 July 2015. 
  13. ^ a b c d e O'Neil, Helen (30 March 2008). "Amateur sleuths restore identity to the dead". Seatle Pi. Retrieved 23 July 2015. 
  14. ^ O'Neill, Helen (30 March 2008). "Volunteers use computers to name the dead". USA Today. Associated Press. Retrieved 23 July 2015. 
  15. ^ "Doe Network Teams". The Doe Network. Retrieved 23 July 2015. 
  16. ^ a b Matt Birkbeck (2005). A Beautiful Child: A True Story of Hope, Horror, and an Enduring Human Spirit. Berkley Books. ISBN 978-0-425-20440-5. 
  17. ^ Clayton, Robin (September 2010). "Cold cases remembered". ACO News. 
  18. ^ Singleton, David (14 April 2010). "Grim discovery of bones cause for hope, despair". The Times Tribune. Retrieved 23 July 2015. 
  19. ^ Melvin, Joshua (26 June 2011). "The John Doe files: San Mateo County coroner tries to name unidentified bodies". San Jose Mercury News. Retrieved 22 July 2015. 
  20. ^ a b "Doe Network Assisted Solves". The Doe Network. 12 February 2015. Retrieved 22 July 2015. 
  21. ^ Walton, Pamela (February 2013). "Lost and Found in the Cumberland". Celebrations Magazine. 
  22. ^ Smith, Carol (5 October 2005). "'Tent Girl' and the start of the Doe Network". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Seattle Pi. Retrieved 23 July 2015. 
  23. ^ Schachtman, Noah (1 January 2004). "Face on a Milk Carton? Amateur Sleuths Dig Deeper". The New York Times. Retrieved 23 July 2015. 
  24. ^ Jones, Janie (August 2011). "Murder Mystery: Lives Lost and Found". AY Magazine. Rivista. Retrieved 22 July 2015. 
  25. ^ Shields, Pierrette J. (20 May 2010). "To say bye: Family, friends to hold memorial for one-time Jane Doe". Longmont Times-Call. 
  26. ^ LeFriec, Alex (12 February 2015). "Missing Spokane teen identified as Arizona cold case victim" (PDF). KXLY News. Retrieved 22 July 2015. 
  27. ^ Morales, Ileana; Valentine, Danny (15 February 2011). "Ohio dispatcher helps solve mystery of man killed in Tampa in 1998". Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved 23 July 2015. 
  28. ^ Harthorn, Jessica (28 July 2011). "Flint family finds closure in missing mother's cold case". MI NBC News. NBC. Retrieved 22 July 2015. 
  29. ^ Bursch, Kathryn (22 July 2011). "Pasco murder victim ID'd after 29 years". 10 News. CBS. Retrieved 22 July 2015. 
  30. ^
  31. ^ “About Face.” Dowling, Paul, director. Forensic Files, season 12, episode 26, TruTV, 18 July 2008.
  32. ^ Hendin, Linda. “The Disappearing Doe.” Who Killed Jane Doe?, season 2, episode 2, Investigation Discovery, 20 Feb. 2018.

External links[edit]