Missing Person Identification Project helps GRIC Families

October 20, 2023


Velia Moncada

Gila River Indian News


Thirty people from seven Gila River Indian Community families with missing relatives met with federal and tribal law enforcement authorities and other resource providers at the Missing Person Identification Project (MPIP) on Sept. 26-27 in District 3’s Sacaton Middle School and the District 6 Head Start Center. 


The goal of this program is to provide families an opportunity to file for a new missing person’s report or provide supplement critical identification information to an ongoing case. In addition, the MPIP event allowed families and law enforcement to cross-reference missing persons’ reports that are closed and/or state that the person is no longer missing.


DNA was collected from family members to assist with investigations into nine cases, including seven missing persons cases and two cold-case homicides. One family that attended the event for their missing family member was also able to inquire about another relative who was murdered in 1990. They were connected to the law enforcement agency that led the investigation in the 1990s. 


“Hosting this event is will hopefully bring out any additional information in the Community, making it a one-stop shop for victims and the families, where they can talk to different services and agencies,” said Chief Jesse Crabtree, Gila River Police Department. 


Support services on hand included NamUs (National Missing and Unidentified Persons System), the Gila River Police Department, the FBI, Bureau of Indian Affairs Murdered and Missing Unit, Gila River Prosecutor’s Officer, United States Attorney’s Office, Gila River Indian Community Crime Victim Services and the Gila River Behavioral Health services.


“This is really for the Community and for the victims and their families so that they may receive some answers and ultimately some closure,” said Jerry Grambow, a supervisory special agent with the FBI covering the Phoenix region. “When the FBI is working in collaboration with other tribal agencies, this is the best way to help. It’s a team approach; together to help individuals in the Community.”


Similar MPIP events are tentatively scheduled at other Native American communities in Arizona, including the Pascua Yaqui Tribe and Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation in the coming months.