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'Missing From the Circle' launches on fifth anniversary of Jacobs disappearance

WILMINGTON, N.C. - Kent Jacobs went missing from the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina on March 10, 2002. The 42-year-old has the mental capacity of a boy and medication needs. Five years later, he remains a missing Indian with loved ones looking for him.

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has reported that Indians have the highest per capita homicide rates among the nation's racial groups; and many Indian people have disappeared without a trace, their cases grown cold in the absence of adequate investigative resources in Indian country.

''For decades, Indian people from every part of the United States have been murdered or disappeared without justice or resolution,'' said Walter Lamar of Lamar Associates, a Washington, D.C.-based law enforcement and security consulting firm. ''We are committed to shedding light on an area of law enforcement that has been overlooked for far too long.''

Missing From the Circle, a pro bono project of Lamar Associates, hopes to fill the gap with an Internet database and public interaction that will help trace missing or unidentified American Indians, Lamar said on the occasion of the service's March 10 public launch. Missing From the Circle will rely heavily on the expertise of Lamar himself, Dorothy Summerfield and other volunteer efforts.

Lamar, an enrolled Blackfeet tribal member and Wichita descendant, retired from the FBI as a special agent, twice honored with its Shield of Bravery award. Summerfield, an enrolled member of the Muscogee Creek Nation and a Cherokee descendant, retired in 2006 as the highest-ranking American Indian woman ever within the FBI. When missing Indians are reported, Summerfield will run the necessary protocols and post the information on the internet. Her posts can then be accessed by following the Missing From the Circle links at Missing people will be profiled on the site through photographs, vital statistics, last-seen-at locations and other information. Lamar Associates will coach and counsel families on next steps when a person turns up missing, such as filing a missing persons report, contacting local law enforcement or collecting personal effects that can be used for identification.

Lamar Associates will dedicate volunteer staff time to managing the Web database, but also looks to volunteers who can keep the site updated.

''It gives Indian country an opportunity to be able to have a place, a central repository for people who are missing and that are trying to be located,'' Lamar said. ''In some cases it's family members that the last time they were heard from or seen they were in L.A., and they haven't been heard from since, and the family wants to know where they are.''

Summerfield serves as an adviser on special projects to Lamar Associates. In announcing the partnership, she said, ''I have known and worked with Walter Lamar for decades and have always admired his vision.''

Lamar believes that, provided a readily accessible resource, Indian people will try to reclaim their missing, or find closure about them, from the same instincts that guided their struggle for the repatriation of remains from the Smithsonian Institution and other museums.

''Particularly the thing that troubled me is the fact that we have these unidentified people that are out there,'' he said. ''And it's the unidentified people that really strike home to me. Because in Indian country we have the beliefs about the spiritual journeys and about being able to properly take care of our people when they've gone on. And here's an opportunity for us to be able to do that.''