NEW YORK – For now, 42 people are listed as missing — not dead — on the World Trade Center (search) death toll.
But the recent discovery of human bones and tissue at a building near the site could change that figure as officials seek to match DNA (search) from the remains to one or more of the 2,792 attack victims.
So far, the remains of about 1,520 people have been identified, most by DNA, and 1,230 others were confirmed dead by the courts because families submitted proof to a judge that the victim was at the trade center or on one of the hijacked planes.
The 42 "missing" cases have no such proof and no identified remains.
"Those cases stay open, and will stay open, until it has been declared a fraud, the person has been identified, or information comes up in another way that closes the case," said Shiya Ribowsky, deputy director of investigation for the city medical examiner's office.
Some people are listed as missing because their remains have not been identified or their whereabouts on Sept. 11 cannot be established with certainty. Others may not be dead, or even exist. A few may be trying to fake their deaths, city officials said.
Workers helping repair the 25-story landmark located about a block from where the south tower stood found the latest set of remains Monday, believed to be from a person or people who died in the attack.
The jetliner crashes and collapses of the 110-story towers blew debris and human remains throughout the area. Part of a stairwell from the south tower landed on the roof of the same building where remains were found. A woman's pelvic bone was found there a year ago.
The discovery came just days before the second-anniversary of the attacks.
Days before last year's anniversary, the city released its first official victims' list. Relatives and dignitaries read aloud 2,801 names, pausing for four moments of silence to note the two airplane strikes and each tower's collapse, as they will this year.
By December, officials had removed nine names read aloud that day. One was a duplication, one was fabricated by a woman allegedly trying to defraud victims' charities and seven had been wrongly reported missing.
New York police alone have made about 40 arrests involving people falsely claiming they lost loved ones, and law enforcement agencies in other cities have caught others.
Officials said the names of the missing will be included in the list read aloud at this year's ceremony.
Two of the mystery cases are those of Kacinga Kabeya, 63, and Kapinga Ngalula, 58, a married couple from Texas. Their children reported them missing after the pair traveled to New York City in early September 2001 on a sightseeing trip, and disappeared.
The family applied last year for death certificates, but the court did not grant them, according to their daughter, Kiki Kabeya.
The mother of Fernando Jiminez Molinar says she has not heard from him since three days before the attack, when he told her he had just been hired at a pizzeria near the trade center.
Last March, a judge denied a death certificate for him, because his whereabouts on Sept. 11 "cannot clearly be fixed."
Molinar and the Texas couple are examples of two common categories on the missing list — illegal immigrants whose jobs were not well-documented, or people whose relatives say they were near the trade center that morning, but know little more.
"If we can't rule it either way, it's better to have their name on there and pay respect to them if they did die," said Kenneth Ling, a police lieutenant pursuing the missing cases.