Family of missing Staten Island man to submit DNA

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NEW YORK (PIX11) – The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner said the brother of a Staten Island teenager who disappeared in 1976 will submit his DNA for a databank on Saturday’s Missing Persons Day.

Freddie Escobar, the brother of Rafael Escobar Jr. – who was 19 when he disappeared from a Staten Island group home – told medical examiners he would be taken for DNA.

The goal is to see if Freddie Escobar’s DNA matches any of the unidentified missing persons found in the United States, dead or alive.

“Their DNA will only go into the missing persons database,” said Mark Desire, deputy director of the Department of Forensic Biology.

He said the DNA profiles don’t go into any other database.

“We are required by law to only search for missing persons cases,” Desire added.

Veronica Cano is a forensic scientist who has worked at the DNA Missing Persons lab for six years.

“It’s very gratifying,” Cano said of the times when there’s a DNA match. “I love my work.”

Jonathan Holly works on the initial phase of investigations, when the remains of unidentified people show up at the medical examiner’s office. He showed PIX11 News how bone fragments can be pulverized into powder, so that DNA can be extracted.

Each year, approximately 14,000 people go missing in New York. Although most eventually appear, hundreds more disappear without a trace.

Desire said the remains of 40,000 Jane and John Does are buried in pottery fields in the United States.

He said his scientists are using a new technology called next-generation sequencing to better extract DNA from bones.

Families interested in submitting a DNA sample to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner can visit the Hirsch Building at 421 East 26th Street this Saturday, June 25. Missing Persons Day will last from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Desire said the rapid saliva swab is free, quick and “non-painful”.

Test results could take two to four weeks.

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