Missouri – The Missouri House Committee is set to deliberate today on House Bill 1716, a legislative proposal aimed at enhancing the state’s ability to resolve missing persons cases. This bill, if passed, could bring much-needed closure to families who have been in the dark about the fate of their loved ones for decades.
Enhancing Search Efforts for Missing Persons
House Bill 1716 seeks to mandate that law enforcement agencies in Missouri submit information on missing persons and unidentified human remains to the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs). This comprehensive database facilitates the storage and sharing of critical details such as physical descriptions and DNA results, which are pivotal in identifying missing individuals or remains.
The bill doesn’t stop at data submission; it also calls for additional training for law enforcement on handling unidentified remains. This includes the submission of fingerprints to the Highway Patrol, conducting dental examinations, and ensuring that all findings are recorded in the NamUs database within 30 days of discovery. These measures are expected to significantly improve the chances of solving missing persons cases.
Currently, only 12 states have legislation that mandates the recording of missing persons information in NamUs. Rep. Tricia Byrnes, R-Wentzville, the bill’s proponent, is advocating for Missouri to join this list as the 13th state. She emphasizes that the bill is as much about raising awareness of NamUs as a vital tool for solving missing persons cases as it is about improving the database’s reliability through widespread participation.
NamUs reports that there are 120 unidentified bodies in Missouri, but the actual number could be higher. The bill aims to not only address cases within the state but also facilitate nationwide connections. An illustrative case is that of a St. Louis teen who went missing in 1981 and was found in Arizona in 1982, remaining unidentified until three years ago. While the case remains unsolved, the identification provided some answers to the grieving family.
Advocates like Courtney Nelson from the Missouri Persons Support Center highlight the importance of law enforcement’s role in diligently adding information to NamUs. Such efforts could reignite hope for families who have been waiting for years to find closure.
One poignant story is that of Cheryl Anne Scherer, who disappeared from Scott City in 1979. Her family, including her sister Diane Scherer-Morris, yearns for the day Cheryl can be laid to rest between their parents.
As House Bill 1716 is reviewed by the House Committee on Emerging Issues, Rep. Byrnes encourages concerned individuals and those with personal stories to testify or submit testimonies online, emphasizing the community’s role in advocating for this significant legislative change.