Missouri follows lead of other states by introducing Caylee's Law
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Missouri follows lead of other states by introducing Caylee's Law

Date: February 20, 2012
By: Josie Butler
State Capitol Bureau
Links: HB1167

JEFFERSON CITY -As a result of the high-profile Casey Anthony trial, Missouri lawmakers look to tighten the laws on reporting the death or disappearance of children.

Caylee's Law was proposed in several states following the 2011 Casey Anthony trial in Florida, to prevent parents from failing to report the death or disappearance of a child.

Rep. Billy Pat Wright, R-Cape Girardeau, said Missouri must tighten the law for reporting missing children. He said he proposed this bill to protect the young children.

Members of the committee expressed general support for the bill, but wanted to make the language more specific.

A change to the language of Caylee's Law was proposed by members of the House Committee on Crime Prevention. The change would require any person in the care, custody and control of a child to report the disappearance or death of a child not just the parent or guardian. 

"We want to be careful about limiting who can do this," Rep. Galen Higdon, R-Platte, said.

He said he is worried that the bill would allow law enforcement officials to prevent other individuals from reporting a missing child. Higdon used the example of a Boy Scout leader supervising an overnight trip. He said that since the children were in the care of the leader, that person should be responsible for reporting a missing child. 

Florida, the only state with Caylee's Law, states that the caretaker of a child must report the disappearance or death in a timely manner.  States such as Oklahoma, Illinois and Maryland have also proposed similar bills. 

The proposed language change would make the bill similar to legislation language of Oklahoma and Illinois.

Oklahoma's version of Caylee's Law says a parent, guardian or person exercising custody or control of a child would be responsible for reporting a missing child within 48 hours. Illinois' bill is similar to Oklahoma, but says parents, guardians anyone in physical custody of the child must report a missing child within 12 hours of discovering them missing. 

Rep. Eileen McGoeghegan, D-St. Louis County, said she would like to see the bill include relatives as individuals responsible for reporting a missing or deceased child as well. She said that in the Casey Anthony case, in Florida, the grandparents knew of Caylee's disappearance and should have been responsible for reporting it. 

Rep. Nick Marshall, R-Platte, also said he wants the language of the bill to be more specific. He said he is sure that this law will be used by ex-spouses in custody battles to harass the other parent.

Committee members also discussed the issue of runaway children. They said they worried that resources used to find children who are known to be abducted will be stretched thin to find runaway children. 

"It's a sad day when we have to create laws to make people do the right thing," McGoeghegan said.

Bill Sponsor Rep. Billy Pat Wright, R-Cape Girardeau, said he looks forward to working with the committee to improve the bill.

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