A measure to enhance Missouri’s Amber Alert system is forging through the Missouri legislature. After garnering practically unanimous support in the House, the bill to improve distribution of the alert among police agencies was heard in a Senate committee Thursday.
House Republican Curtis Trent of Springfield says there’s a problem because not all law enforcement interface systems are connected with the Amber Alert system.
“So what we want to is make sure that whatever interface system the police officer normally uses, that they can access the Amber Alert system digitally and seamlessly with that platform” said Trent. “And by eliminating any unnecessary steps, make the issuance of those alerts as fast as possible.”
The bill calls for the Amber Alert System to be integrated into the Missouri uniform law enforcement system (MULES) and the Regional Justice Information Service (REJIS) to expedite the reporting of child abductions.
Known as “Hailey’s Law”, the measure is named after 10-year-old Hailey Owens, who was kidnapped, raped and murdered in Springfield in 2014.
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. “And if I would have received an Amber Alert is a more timely manner, I would have recognized my license plate number on the vehicle that I owned.”
After Springfield Police responded to a child abduction call, there was a two-hour delay before an Amber Alert was issued statewide.
The bill was approved in the House by a resounding 144-1 margin. While Caleb Rowden (R-Columbia) is carrying it in the Senate, Trent, the House sponsor, presented the measure before the Senate Transportation, Infrastructure and Public Safety Committee Thursday.
He thinks it has a decent shot at becoming law, even though the legislature is winding down to its last three weeks of the yearly session.
“Unless something mechanical prevents us from getting it to the finish line, then it will get there” said Trent. “And of course I’m also looking at alternative ways to get the language through, such as through an amendment on a Senate bill.”
Trent says the bill itself is meant to ensure enhancements are made. “I think we’re already moving in that direction. But having the requirement in there makes sure that this will be the case going forward, because this technology will continue to change and continue to update as we go along. And so we don’t want any system in the future to be developed where this integration were not a part of it.”
Wood, the father of Hailey Owens’ accused killer, spoke with Missourinet after the hearing. He said the incident has torn two families apart.
“The victim’s family is in turmoil over this. And my family is. This is the biggest stunner that I’ve had. We had a closed knit family and Craig, my son, had never been in trouble before. This is just the most bizarre thing I could ever anticipate in my life.”
Craig Wood is charged with first degree murder, kidnapping, rape and sodomy and is set to go on trial in southwest Missouri’s Greene County on October 23.
As of Thursday evening, the News-Leader newspaper was reporting Owens mother, Stacey Barfield, had asked prosecutor to drop his pursuit of the death penalty in the case.