The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office is inviting anyone with a long-term missing loved one or relative to attend its third annual Missing in Arizona Day event at ASU West this month.

At a press conference in Phoenix on Tuesday, Oct. 10, Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone said the event, to be held Oct. 21, is “dedicated specifically to men and women whose bodies … have been recovered, but are unfortunately unidentified, and families who are missing loved ones, yet have no idea if their loved ones are still alive.”

Penzone said there are 2,000 missing persons in Arizona and an additional 1,500 unidentified human remains.

“These are cases that would be difficult to solve, whether it is a natural death because we live in a desert with vast space, or it is a murder,” he said.

The event will connect family members of the missing with authorities who can accept evidence such as medical and dental records or DNA samples from them in hopes of finding a match.

Missing in Arizona Day is intended to try to find links to long-term missing persons, not to runaways and similar situations.

Of particular interest this year is missing Native Americans in northern Arizona, and the event’s organizers hope to improve coordination of reporting and follow-up in those cases.

MCSO Homicide Detective Sgt John Little said, “The event is intended to offer a one-stop shop for families … we’re not concerned about the circumstances, we’re not concerned about anything other than the fact that that family is missing someone important to them.

The family members can meet with investigators who will interview them and then add the evidence supplied into the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, MCSO Det. Tony Rodarte said.

“The family that leaves will have a contact person, whoever took their report, and we make it very clear to families, we will follow up with you and we will let you know what your report number will be,” Rodarte said.

“If you are missing a loved one,” Penzone said, he “hopes you will come forward and, in some form, share DNA that we can process and utilize to identify if a loved one of yours has been recovered.”

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Missing in Arizona Day will be from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 21, at Arizona State University West, 4701 W. Thunderbird Road, in Glendale.