As the legislative session winds down in Jefferson City, a measure to enhance Missouri’s Amber Alert system is stalled in the state Senate.
The chamber has been hamstrung in recent days by infighting within the Republican super-majority. Its dysfunction was highlighted Tuesday by a 10 minute session in which no legislation was heard. The bill, known as “Hailey’s Law” would improve distribution of Amber Alerts among police agencies.
House Republican Curtis Trent of Springfield, who’s sponsoring the measure, says there’s a problem because not all law enforcement interface systems are connected with the Amber Alert system.
The measure calls for Amber Alerts to be integrated with the state Highway Patrol communications service (MULES), which interacts with all law enforcement agencies, and the region’s criminal justice database (REJIS). The intention is to speed up delivery of Amber Alerts.
The measure is named after 10-year-old Hailey Owens, who was kidnapped, raped and murdered in Springfield in 2014. After local police responded to a child abduction call, there was a two-hour delay before an Amber Alert was issued statewide.
Jim Wood, the father of alleged killer Craig Wood, thinks he could have helped prevent the tragedy if an alert been had sent more quickly. “I was in the neighborhood, within about four blocks of Craig’s house” said Wood.
The bill passed the House by an overwhelming 144-1 margin and moved the through a Senate committee before hitting a backlog on the chamber floor.
Wood and his wife Genie along with Hailey’s mother, Stacey Barfield, held a breakfast rally and press conference Wednesday morning at the state capitol to try to propel the measure to the finish line.
Barfield said the two families joined together recently to back the legislation, despite the painful circumstances of Hailey’s killing. “At first I was kind of standoffish, but I think we just kind of came to terms that we want this to be passed” said Barfield.
Representative Trent is acutely aware that the Senate’s current glacial pace complicates the bill’s path to approval.
“I think there’s maybe some collateral damage to some of these larger fights that are going on in the Senate” said Trent. “I would hope that Hailey’s Law” is not one of those. (I hope) that they would be able to pass common sense legislation that has broad support, like Hailey’s Law.”
As the legislative session winds down toward its final week, Trent says he’ll seek to place his legislation onto a Senate bill as an amendment to try and get it through. To do so without breaking rules requires finding bills that deal with the same subject. Trent says public safety is the category he’s looking at.
The trial of Hailey’s accused killer, Craig Wood, is set for October 23rd in southwest Missouri’s Greene County. Wood is charged with first degree murder, kidnapping, rape and sodomy.
At the Wednesday rally, Barfield reiterated her preference that the prosecutor not seek the death penalty in her daughter’s murder.
“I just don’t want to go through the trial” said Barfield. “I would have to relive my nightmare again. I do it every day, waking up without her. But sitting there day after day having to listen to all the testimony and everything, I really don’t want to do that.”
Previously, Barfield had deferred to her husband, Jeff, to make public comments. She has chosen to speak out herself in the last several months after separating from Jeff, who was indicted earlier this year on child pornography charges not related to Hailey.