By Erica Morse
Publisher, Victims News Online
Updated 8:30 am, January 7, 2024

(HOUSTON, TEXAS) — When John Almendarez suddenly stopped calling his daughters in 2002, they knew something was wrong.

John Almendarez / Photo: File

Alice Almendarez, then only 16 years old, went to her local police to file a missing persons’ report, only to be turned away.

“NOT one person helped since the time he went missing”, Alice told Victims News Online.

She was told her father, an alcoholic, had the right to leave his life without notice. Perhaps he ran off voluntarily and started a new life; or maybe, he was on another bender; but Alice knew her father was in trouble, and refused to give up looking for him.

Alice would not get an official missing persons’ report filed in Texas for the next eight years; but by the time of that report in 2010, her father wasn’t even a missing person anymore, and law enforcement had ignored every tool at their disposal to make that determination.

Unbeknownst to Alice, her father was already deceased, and his body recovered by law enforcement just weeks after his initial disappearance. According to, John Almendarez had drowned in Houston’s Buffalo Bayou on July 2, 2002, and was immediately taken to the Houston, Texas, morgue. Due to decomposition, he was unidentifiable. Since law enforcement had not bothered to collect DNA from Alice when she tried to file a missing person’s report weeks earlier, there was no comparison to make.

Alice pleaded with law enforcement for answers. She went to the Harris County morgue looking for her father, only to be told he wasn’t there.

John Almendarez, now known as John Doe No. ML02-2230, was – in fact – lying feet away from his daughter, where he would remain – unidentified – for the next two years. In 2004, he was buried without her knowledge, and the case was closed by the Houston Police Department without Alice ever being contacted.

One day, Alice stumbled onto a Google search about a new database called NamUs: it’s an odd name for a long piece of software, known as the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System; at the time, it was housed at the University of North Texas, and groundbreaking efforts in DNA comparisons were being made for missing persons and unidentified human remains. Alice saw a contact name, Todd Matthews, and sent the man an email asking for help in locating her father.

Matthews immediately responded, and Alice finally had an ally in the search for her dad.

“He emailed my local law enforcement and reopened the case to get a case number and DNA submitted,” Alice told Victims News Online. “Six months later, we had a match”. 

After 12 years of waiting, Alice Almendarez finally had answers – and a place to visit her father to grieve – after learning he had been buried in nearby Harris County Cemetery since 2004.

“Without his heart and his caring ways I would have never found my dad who was buried unidentified for all those years,” Alice told VNO.

The friendship between Alice and Todd Matthews, however, was far from over. In typical fashion, after giving Alice answers about her own father’s disappearance, Todd then recruited her to work alongside him – and other Texas families – to help give them the same answers and closure he gave to her.

As it turns out, Todd – who had his hands in many projects simultaneously – was already working with the family of missing Billy Smolinski, Missouri Missing, Victims News Online, and other organizations, to pass a state-by-state law in honor of one missing person, in an effort to generate support for a Federal effort known as ‘Billy’s Law’. The project on the state level was known as the ‘Help Find the Missing Act’, and would go on to be passed in 14 states before becoming Federal Law. The objective was to require all law enforcement officials and coroners in every state to enter missing and unidentified persons into NamUs for quicker comparisons and identification. Matthews thought Alice’s dad was the perfect example of the why the NamUs system is crucial in the identification process, and soon encouraged her to create a statewide bill in her father’s name.

Todd Matthews and Alice Almendarez Photo: provided

“We finally met at a missing persons event in Houston and he pushed me to speak in various places and news stations from all over to advocate for a new law in my dad’s name,” Alice told VNO. That law (John and Joseph’s Law) was passed in 2021. He helped me help so many families and bragged about me; but the entire time he was pushing me and teaching me because he believed in me so much”.

‘John and Joseph’s Law’, passed in September 2021, requires every missing person in the state of Texas who is the subject of a report to be entered into the NamUs system within 60 days. Currently, there are 2,680 missing people and 1,999 sets of unidentified remains from Texas listed in NamUs, thanks heavily to the work Todd and Alice have done together. In December 2022, Billy’s Law was also passed on the Federal Level, making NamUs mandatory for every state in the U.S.

When Alice heard about the unexpected passing of Todd Matthews a few days ago, she reached out to our team to tell her story, in the hopes that Todd’s work will live on through us all.

“He was always my hero and now he’s my angel,” Alice told Victims News Online. “I know so many people were waiting in Heaven to thank him for all the work he put in to being the change for so many of us”. 

Funeral services for Todd Matthews will be held at 2 p.m. today at Speck Funeral Home in Livingston, Tennessee. Obituary and memorial information may be found here.

Follow Victims News Online on Facebook.

Please follow and like us:
onpost_follow 0

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *