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Operation Found & Forgotten Aims to Close Cold Cases in South Florida

The Found & Forgotten Files are the biggest mysteries within the Broward Sheriff's Office. 65 death investigations sat on the shelf until deputies examined each one, determined to find answers.

"These are remaining things recovered from the body inside the house; a bandanna worn on the skull when we found this," said Lt. Ken Kaminsky with BSO.

That may be all Lt. Kaminsky has to go on. His team's mission: close cases by putting names to the faces of the Found & Forgotten.

There are victims of murder or even death by natural causes, whose identity remains a mystery.

Lt. Kaminsky created Operation Found & Forgotten in 2008, posting everything recorded about 65 cases gone cold. His unit hopes someone will recognize something that could be the difference in cracking the case.

"Here's a person that's unidentifiable. Somebody's family member, brother, sister or sibling might be able to identify as they know that necklace and they haven't seen that brother in many years and that can be the ones with the lead that brings closure to this case," Lt. Kaminsky said.

He opened up a handful of cases for NBC 6 and put all the evidence on the table. For some, it's not much, a shirt or a pair of shoes, but others offer more personal clues: a favorite necklace or lucky charm that someone else might remember.

Something like what detectives spotted on one man found along I-75 almost 35 year ago.

"In 1981, this man found in west Broward with a distinctive ring with an Indian head with two red stones for eyes," Lt. Kiminsky explained.

Capt. Fernando Gajate puts the clues to paper and clay. He sketches and sculpts what the person may have looked like. Often times, he uses the person's actual skull to make an accurate mold.

"The skull gives you so much. It's amazing what info the anthropologists can give me so I can do my job," Capt. Gajate said.

Thanks to DNA technology and nationwide databases, detectives piece together possible identities. It's challenging work, but the drive to figure out who these people are doesn't go away.

"You feel you have a relationship with the person that you've found and there's nothing more satisfying than being able to ID the person and bring closure to the family of their missing loved one," Lt. Kiminsky said.

To learn more about Operation Found & Forgotten, click here.

What about success stories of the Found & Forgotten? Has the unit ever been able to identify someone and bring their family closure? Find out next Friday, May 20, on NBC 6 at 11 p.m. when we bring you part two of this series.

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