Two U.S. senators from Connecticut have introduced Billy’s Law, which is intended to close loopholes in the country’s missing persons systems.
Every year tens of thousands of Americans go missing, never to be seen by their loved ones again. At the same time, there are an estimated 40,000 sets of unidentified human remains across the country.
Sadly, because of gaps in the systems, missing persons and unidentified remains are rarely matched.
The federal legislation — also known as the Help Find the Missing Act — was first introduced in 2009 by then-Congressman Chris Murphy of Connecticut. Murphy, a Democrat, is now a senator.
Connecticut’s other U.S. senator, Democrat Richard Blumenthal, is another sponsor of the bill.
There are an estimated 87,000 missing persons in the United States.
Inspired by Billy Smolinski case
Billy’s Law was inspired by Janice Smolinski of Cheshire, Conn. In 2004, her 31-year-old son Billy went missing from Waterbury.
When faced with the nightmare of trying to locate her missing son, Smolinski faced countless systemic challenges as she attempted to work with law enforcement to find him.
Murphy said he penned Billy’s Law to address those challenges and help ensure that more families do not encounter the hurdles the Smolinskis faced as they searched for their son.
Learn more about the Billy Smolinski case at www.justice4billy.com.
What the law would do
Billy’s Law will help the families of the missing find justice by authorizing and ensuring funding for the only federal database for missing persons and unidentified remains that can be cross-searched, accessed and added to by the public — the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs).
This database enables the loved ones of missing persons to search for a match and add invaluable information to the case profile that only they know.
The bill would also streamline the reporting process for law enforcement and medical examiners by connecting NamUs and the FBI’s National Crime Information Center (NCIC) — two major federal missing persons and unidentified remains databases.
Finally, Billy’s Law would establish an incentive grants program to help coroners, medical examiners and law enforcement agencies facilitate the reporting of missing persons and unidentified remains, and would require the U.S. Department of Justice to issue a report on best practice standards and procedures.
‘Not knowing the whereabouts…’
“Thousands of families across America wake up every day not knowing the whereabouts of their missing loved one,” Murphy said.
“They expect and deserve Congress to come together to figure out a way to improve the way we handle missing persons cases,” he said.
Another sponsor of the bill is U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty of Connecticut, who represents the congressional district previously represented by Murphy. The district includes Cheshire and part of Waterbury.
“For families like the Smolinksis, who have struggled to navigate a broken system while also mourning the disappearance of their son from Waterbury, we ought to improve their ability to access critical information,” said Esty, a Democrat.
Additional sponsors of the bill — being promoted as bipartisan by its sponsors — are U.S. Sen. Mark Begich (Democrat of Alaska), U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (Democrat of New York), and U.S. Rep. Ted Poe (Republican of Texas).