Reported By Jonathan Martin
There could soon be closure in some of Nashville's oldest mysteries. More than a dozen unidentified bodies are getting new attention with help from a woman volunteering her time.
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Since forensic specialist Maryann Mulawka started volunteering in Nashville's Cold Case Unit, officers said, she's made a big difference by setting up a more uniform way to identify remains. In fact, detectives said, she's doing a lot of work they aren't trained to do.
There are 19 John and Jane Does in Nashville, bodies Metro police have never been able to identify, dating back to 1976.
"There's the fingerprints. Still nothing has come back," said Lt. Pat Taylor of Metro police.
Now with a more organized effort and help from an expert, investigators hope to crack some old cases and bring closure to loved ones.
Police are calling Mulawka a blessing. Her work at San Diego's medical examiner's office led to 51 bodies being identified. This month, she's volunteering in Nashville, going through each file and suggesting steps police should take, "like if DNA needs to be sent or if dental needs to be sent or fingerprints need to be searched," Mulawka said.
With changing DNA technology and new databases, Mulawka is creating protocol for detectives working unidentified persons cases and introducing them to useful resources.
"It's not like it is on 'CSI' where there is just one, uniform database where you search the DNA sample and you get a hit with a person's name and address. That's not the way it works," said Mulawka.
"She's teaching us all how to do our job a little bit better," Taylor said.
It's detailed attention that will create a more efficient department and could lead to answers families deserve.
"It's very sad information that the person is deceased, but at least they know and can move on with their life," Mulawka said.
Because of her work, police have already started resubmitting DNA and other evidence in some of the cases.
Mulawka won't be in Nashville much longer; she has accepted a job at the New York medical examiner's office.
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