Families with missing loved one's need to know about NAMUS, event upcoming at Texas Center for the Missing

FOX 26 puts an emphasis on highlighting people who go missing from the Greater Houston area and the plights their families face while trying to bring them home. In this week's edition of "The Missing," Gabby Hart brings us the story of a woman who fought to see a critical law passed in our state, after a daunting experience trying to find her own father who had already been buried as a John Doe.

It's estimated that more than 4,000 unidentified bodies are found each year and nearly 1,000 of those bodies remain unidentified.  

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NAMUS is a national database that helps families connect the dots, but it wasn't until the John and Josephs Law passed in Texas, that it became mandatory for law enforcement and morgues to enter that information into the NAMUS database.

Alice Almendarez was 16-years-old when her father 42-year-old John Joseph Almendarez vanished, the last time she saw him was during a visitation on Father's Day in 2002. 

"I started to believe people could just vanish, because I knew my father wouldn't just walk away from us," Almendarez said. 

Her family would spend the next 12 years desperately searching, not knowing all along the Harris County Sheriff's Office pulled his body from the Buffalo Bayou on July 2, just over one week after he went missing.

"2-years after his body was pulled out of Buffalo Bayou, he was buried as an unidentified male," said Almendarez. 

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She says that because the missing person's report was filed with the Houston Police Department, Harris County wasn't aware that he'd been reported missing; he was taken to the morgue and after years passed buried in an unmarked grave.

Alice never stopped searching, she did her own research and learned about the National Missing and Unidentified Person's System, also known as NAMUS

"If someone were to go missing in Texas, and they're found in Florida, that's the only way to connect the dots because no one else would know," Almendarez explained. 

NAMUS instructed Alice to have law enforcement re-open her father's case and provide her DNA. 

"Someone who knew should've told me. But because they didn't have to, they didn't and because they didn't have to take my DNA they didn't," she said. 

In September 2014, six months after the Harris County Morgue collected Alices' DNA, they called her and informed her that her father had been buried in the Harris County cemetery in 2004. After finally getting some closure, Alice started advocating for the "John and Josephs Law," which would mandate Texas officials to input missing person info and DNA into the NAMUS database.

"It was crazy that something like that existed, and it was even crazier that it wasn't mandatory to use by all law enforcement," Almendarez said. 

In September 2021, "John and Joseph's Law" went into effect making Texas one of at least 12 states to pass similar legislation.

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"When I found out they had pushed this law through I was so grateful and astounded that it even had to be a law," said Judy Rugg. 

Rugg knows firsthand the closure that this new law can provide for families, her son, 20-year-old Kyle Rugg went on a fishing trip to Lake Livingston with a friend on March 4, 2015.

"Nobody ever saw him again," Rugg said. 

Kyle's body was found in a wooded area in the Sam Houston National Forest in Polk County in January 2020. But it wasn't until January 2022, 2 years later, that his family was located and notified. That also just so happened to be a few months after John and Josephs Law was passed.

"That was always my prayer, just bring him home in whatever form we're going to get him, just bring him home. I am just positive that there are many other families that have had an outcome like we have since that law went into effect," she said. 

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The John and Joseph's Law will require law enforcement to enter missing persons reports into NAMUS within 60 days. Justices of the peace and medical examiners are required to enter that info within 10 days of finding identifying features of the remains, or 60 days after the death is reported. This includes digital records, fingerprints and other physical characteristics.

"NAMUS is open to the public, you can search this yourself. If your family member is in there or if their body is found in another jurisdiction, you're able to see that. You're able to put in their eye color, weight, height, whatever, and it'll bring up whoever matches or could somewhat match your loved one, and then you rule it out through DNA," Almendarez explained. 

And a crucial reminder, loved ones of missing people need to provide their own DNA, so it can be entered into NAMUS as well.

"It is so important to get that into the database, because if that hadn't been there then it would still be sitting in the database with no identification," Judy Rugg said. 


On April 29, 2023, law enforcement will be at the Texas Center For The Missing collecting DNA from families of missing persons.

They will take all DNA collected and place that into the NAMUS database. Anyone can just show up you do not need an appointment.

The event will be held from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. at 2500 Bolsover St, Houston, TX, 77005.

If you know anything about the disappearance of someone from the Greater Houston area, Contact Houston police at (713) 884-3131 or Houston Crime Stoppers at (713) 521-4600. 

You can click here for a look at an official record of Long-term Missing persons throughout the state of Texas.