Matthew Ferris (Courtesy Iowa Department of Public Safety)

Matthew Ferris (Courtesy Iowa Department of Public Safety)

Matthew John Ferris

Missing Person

NAME: Matthew John Ferris
DOB: November 15, 1970
SEX: Male
RACE: White
HAIR: Brown
HEIGHT: 5’10”
WEIGHT: 140 pounds
County: Polk County
CASE NUMBER: 1991-9217
NAMUS MP NO: 17065
NCIC NUMBER: M-478282492
INCIDENT TYPE: Endangered / physical
LAST SEEN ALIVE: February 1991


Matthew John Ferris, 20, was reported missing to the Des Moines Police Department on March 7, 1991.

Polk County in Iowa
Polk County in Iowa
Des Moines in Polk CountyDes Moines in Polk County

Ferris first disappeared from his hometown of Des Moines, Iowa, on July 25, 1990. He told his family he needed the day off work to help a friend move.

His father later discovered a note from Ferris at the family’s home, in which his son apologized for any pain his disappearance may cause his loved ones. Ferris returned to Iowa one week later, apparently frightened.

Ferris underwent psychiatric treatment for the next six months. He also enrolled at Iowa State University.

Ferris was last seen by his family in February 1991. He was behaving abnormally, and Ferris’ father stated that his son seemed to be exhibiting manic behavior and was happy, which was unlike Ferris’ character at the time.

After telling his family he was going to the movies, Ferris disappeared. He apparently headed to Custer State Park in South Dakota. His family believes that Ferris elected to travel to that destination because he enjoyed Native American folklore.

The family never heard from Ferris again and reported him missing on March 7, 1991.

Officials have categorized Ferris’s case as “Endangered/Physical,” meaning a person of any age who is missing under circumstances indicating that his/her physical safety is in danger.

According to NamUs, dental information/charting is available and will be entered later. NamUs also indicated that fingerprint information is available elsewhere. (This as of NamUs report dated Feb. 27, 2018.)

Information Needed

If you have any information concerning Ferris’ whereabouts, please contact Sgt. Darren Cornwell of the Des Moines Police Department at (515) 283-4811.



34 Responses to Matthew Ferris

  1. Pam Heintzleman says:

    Can’t they check dna through teeth Etc now?

    • Jenni says:

      They have to use a combination of DNA and genetic genealogy. The DNA gives them the genetic profile of the deceased individual. But they have to have something to compare that to. Yes, they could compare the DNA of the unidentified individual to that of Matthew’s family members. Otherwise, if they don’t have a potential match to compare to, they have to use genetic genealogy to trace the family of the deceased. Usually at best, they get a hit on a distant relative in a database of people whose DNA profiles have been voluntarily submitted.

  2. Jenni says:

    Another possible match; I just submitted to the Doe Network: Victim found 3/7/1991 and matches Matthew’s height/weight.

    • MikeD says:

      Great find. That one looks really promising.

      • Jenni says:

        Doe Network says that the match has actually been submitted before, and that they forwarded the information to Law Enforcement. Clearly there was no follow up by LE, because Matthew is not in the list of exclusions for that unidentified person. A different organization (The DNA Doe Project) working on that case through genetic genealogy is checking into whether he could be a match for Matthew now.

        • Jody Ewing says:

          Thanks for the update, Jenni. So many things match in this case, and the physical similarities are remarkable. I look forward to hearing whether there’s a match to Matthew. The “list of exclusions” you referenced is invaluable; it saves both researchers and investigators from running out the same lead and hitting the same dead end.

    • Jenni says:

      FYI, this individual was determined to be a missing person from St. Louis. One less John Doe out there now.

  3. Jodi Frye says:

    Oh gawsh thats sad. I try to read these each day and say a little prayer. Cant imagine how hard this is on a family.

  4. I will pray this young man is found safe. God please be with this young man. I also pray for the family and friends. .amen!

  5. Pam Heintzleman says:

    It says that there is a new comment but I do not see it

  6. I never even got a reply.. here are the photos side by side though

  7. Pam Heintzleman says:

    C:\Users\froggzzz\Pictures\Picasa\Collages\Movies-001.jpg The 1972 would not make sense as he will be 45 in November of this year,. but what you are saying could be true… I emailed this photo (not sure if it wil post) to the DMPD and did not get any reply.

  8. Ann says:

    I wonder if anyone has looked into this: a public records search lists a Matthew Ferris in Idaho, age 45. Idaho courts online lists a case from 1998-1999 regarding a fish & wildlife charge against a Matthew J. Ferris, born in 1972. This would fit with someone traveling to and from state parks and perhaps illegally fishing or killing wildlife as a food source.

  9. Atom Budd says:

    Did your information help? I can’t find any newspaper articles on him.

  10. I actually have found information that may be helpful, waiting for return call

  11. Pam Olson Heintzleman says:

    I have no idea about the reading and smoking cigarettes, sorry

    As for the submission of the information to law enforcement, I never heard anything about this until I stumbled upon it here. I am curious. I wonder if I can call DMPD and ask where to ask about cold cases?

  12. Tom Friendly says:

    Was Matt an avid book reader? Did he smoke cigarettes?

  13. Seemed like every couple of years a boy or young man would vanish in Des Moines.

  14. what a terrible thing to never know what happened.

  15. Jenni says:

    Did anything ever come of this? I looked at the Doe Network case and agree there is a resemblance.

    • Pam says:

      I went to high school with Matt, the only thing about that doe case that doesn’t make sense is the weight they says was 180, I think it would be hard for Matt to gain that much weight in any amount of time especially a few months, he was always slender. I wonder how correct the weight of 180lbs was, did they just guess by looking at the skeletal remains?

    • Mandie says:

      I think they based it on the clothing size jeans 34

  16. Lunn, Terri says:

    Concerning the above case for Matthew John Ferris.

    There is a case listed on the Doe Network that is of a man, matching Matt’s description who was found 6 months after Matt went missing. The interesting item which caught my eye was that the car they found of this young man’s was bought in North Dakota. His parents reported he had been in South Dakota. The age/height/weight are all possible matches and the hair/composite sketch seem to look alike.
    The case number is: The Doe Network:

    Case File 502UMAL

    1 2
    Reconstruction of Victim

    Unidentified White Male

    The victim was discovered on December 21, 1991 in Dekalb County, Alabama
    Estimated Time of Death: August 1991
    The man died from asphyxiation caused by hanging, which was ruled a suicide.
    Skeletal Remains

    Thought I would submit this possibility. Thanks for considering this and I hope it helps!

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