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Steve Griffin, KSL

Utah police gather information from the public to help solve missing persons cases

By Wendy Leonard, KSL | Posted - Mar. 9, 2019 at 7:04 p.m.


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SANDY — Jim Fields left his home in Annabella, Sevier County, for a doctor appointment in Provo on Monday.

He never showed up to his appointment and he hasn't been seen since.

"It's frustrating to the sheriff. It's frustrating to us. It's frustrating to everyone we talk to," his wife, Linda Fields, said Saturday. "It's like he disappeared off the face of the earth."

It turns out, Jim Fields is one of more than 107 people in Utah who have gone missing and haven't turned up. The number is always changing, said Dustin Driscoll, regional program specialist for the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, a free nationwide database for missing person files.

"Once somebody goes missing, where they end up could be a totally different area," he said. "It could be across the United States or another country."

NamUs has contacts around the country who can help gather medical or dental records or obtain samples of DNA, but also work with forensics, which helps connect the dots sometimes.

Other times, police have very little to go on, as is the case with the missing Annabella man.

"Each day makes it more worrisome," said Linda Fields. "I would've thought he'd been found by now."

Her 77-year-old husband had been suffering with what she believed was a kidney infection, which might have caused him some delirium, as it often does in elderly people. He left the house at about noon on Monday, March 4, in his dark gray Dodge truck, likely wearing "suspenders and a flannel plaid, jeans and work boots," his wife said.

She thinks he took a wrong turn somewhere or pulled off the main roads and just hasn't been seen. "I'm extremely worried," Linda Fields said.

She traveled from central Utah on Saturday to attend the state's first Missing in Utah event held at the Miller Conference Center in Sandy, where public safety officials were on hand to help families with reports of missing loved ones. The event aims to connect various channels of information to more successfully locate missing persons.


All we can promise is that we will do our best to find some sort of resolution in the case, but we can't make a promise one way or another which way it is going to go.

–Salt Lake police detective Jessica Kilgore


"It's the most underreported situation we face," said Salt Lake police detective Jessica Kilgore. She said people from outside of the U.S. may not be familiar with or are intimidated by law enforcement in this country and don't come usually forward to report a missing loved one.

"They should know we are here to help," Kilgore said.

The one-day Utah event was modeled after similar events in other states across the country, where gathering community input has helped make necessary connections in cases that might have gone unsolved for years. The past three events in Arizona have helped officials there solve at least 27 missing persons cases, 15 where the person was still alive, the Arizona Republic reported.

"All we can promise is that we will do our best to find some sort of resolution in the case, but we can't make a promise one way or another which way it is going to go," Kilgore said. "The more information we have from them — DNA, dental records, medical records — any information about the time they went missing. Everything about their missing loved one helps."

Elizabeth Rivera, center, and her granddaughter Elisa Gonzalez talk with Salt Lake police detective Jessica Kilgore as they attend the Salt Lake City Police Department's inaugural Missing In Utah event at the Miller Conference Center in Sandy on Saturday, March 9, 2019. (Photo: Steve Griffin, KSL)

Kilgore said people go missing for many different reasons, and sometimes they don't want to be found. Other times, they die while passing through places where nobody knows them.

"There are a lot of unidentified bodies recovered nationwide," she said, adding that getting more details into the database can help to find someone more easily.

"We want to help give some closure one way or another," said Salt Lake police spokeswoman Christina Judd. She said local police can help with any case that has ties to Utah — "regardless of status, gender or persuasion."

"We're just looking to help you find your missing loved one, man, woman or child," Judd said.

Linda Fields said she hopes her husband — who she described as 5 feet, 8 inches tall, 180 pounds, with curly gray hair and blue eyes — turns up sooner than later. She said she's "holding it together for now," but doesn't know how long that can last.

Utahns unable to attend Saturday's event can call the Salt Lake City Police Department at 801-799-3000, or visit the NamUs website, at NamUs.gov, to start the process.

Contributing: Jasen Lee

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