A Facebook group and the state DCI have focused on featuring Wyoming missing persons cases
Interest in missing persons cases has increased in previous years with many true crime shows catering to this increased interest. The Gabby Petito case last year brought international attention to Wyoming and as well as a renewed focus on finding missing persons.
Social media pages have been set up across the country in attempts to better publicize missing persons cases, including those that may not normally receive much media attention.
“A close friend of mine had told me about two gentlemen here in Casper who had both had troubled backgrounds and nobody was talking about it on Facebook groups, media, news,” said Desiree Tinoco, a Casper resident who started the 'Missing people of Wyoming' Facebook page in 2019. “It just seemed like because of their questionable lifestyles that they didn’t really matter as much, and I thought that was kind of in poor taste.”
Tinoco said she felt compelled to do something after finding out there wasn’t a good system in Wyoming that featured missing persons cases at the state level. She tried contacting state legislators but found little assistance with them. Finally, she reached out to the DCI, who although short-staffed, took up her request and updated their website. This included adding a special section dedicated to missing persons. Though there isn’t a link to the Facebook page, Tinoco said that she’s in touch approximately once a week with DCI to share information.
“We did have Desiree Tinoco from the 'Missing people of Wyoming' Facebook [contact DCI] to talk about it, so that kind of got us jumpstarted on it,” said Katie Koskelowski, Missing Persons Clearinghouse Manager with DCI. “It was something that we were trying to figure out how to do. When she came to us, we made it a priority and pushed that through.”
Koskelowski said they recognized the importance of having a more accessible website and getting the word out on missing persons cases. And while she said DCI has had a database dealing with missing persons for years, the efforts they made recently have been more visible to the general public.
“So, in the last year we’ve changed it to the current format, and that’s it’s own missing person page,” said Koskelowski. “We have more in-depth information, we have photos if we’re able to get those, and we keep those in chronological order of when they went missing.”
Cold cases are separate from missing persons ones. Missing persons cases are left on the DCI’s website until someone is either found alive, a body is recovered, or there are remains that are located from the missing person(s). Currently, the oldest missing persons cases on the website date from the 1970s.
To be included on either the DCI’s website or the Facebook page, a missing persons report has to be filed with local authorities. DCI takes cases that have been uploaded to the National Crime Information Center (NCIC)’s database and posts them after one week to their website.
Koskelowski said that tips may also be submitted on the DCI’s website, which have been used to locate missing persons in the past. According to the website, submitting a tip doesn’t file a missing persons report, which must be done through local law enforcement agencies.
Tinoco has placed a focus on a traditionally underreported group that has received little media attention over the years.
“I’m a member of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Task Force for the state of Wyoming,” said Tinoco, who is indigenous and had previously lived on two reservations. “[A study released last year indicated that] 710 indigenous people over the last decade have gone missing. All but one or two counties have had indigenous go missing—this isn’t [just] a reservation problem; they’re going missing off the reservation.”
According to its first statewide report on missing and murdered indigenous persons, released in Jan. 2021, the Wyoming Survey and Analysis Center reported that 8,431 people were entered into the NCIC in Wyoming between 2011 and 2020, 15 percent of whom were indigenous. “These records represent 4,884 unique individuals, 710 of whom were Indigenous,” the website states for the report.
Tinoco has expressed interest in starting a non-profit in the future for missing persons. But for now, she’s dedicated to keeping missing persons cases remain in the public consciousness in the hopes that they can be solved.
“I just want people to be informed, family members and the public and I think it’s just been wonderful to see like this joint effort,” Tinoco said. “It’s so gratifying to see such a beautiful joint effort in such a[n] otherwise sad and daunting task.”