State Rep. Juandalynn Givan, D-Birmingham, sponsored Alabama’s version of Caylee’s Law, named after Casey Anthony’s 2-year-old daughter, who went missing in Florida in 2008 and wasn’t reported missing for 31 days.
Givan said she realized during the Anthony trial in 2011 that Alabama did not have any laws in regard to a child going missing and not being reported.
“You have a responsibility to report that your child is missing,” Givan said.
Givan said the Anthony trial inspired her to research Alabama's missing children’s cases, and she found a need for the law.
“Those are the things we take for granted. We assume that someone is going to call,” Givan said. “That’s not always the case.”
Givan wanted to make Caylee Anthony’s death an example of what can happen when a child is not reported missing for several days. A recent Jefferson County child abduction ended positively, Givan said, when the child’s parents called police right away. Law enforcement was able to find the unharmed 2-year-old quickly, she said.
The law requires the guardian of a person from ages 1 to 18 to report if the child was abducted, lost or runs away as soon as the situation is discovered. Failure or delay to report the missing child is a Class A misdemeanor, according to the bill. If harm or death comes to the child because of delay or failure, the guardian will be charged with a Class C felony.
Calhoun County Sheriff Larry Amerson said the county is fortunate not to have many cases of missing or abducted children. Amerson said he couldn’t recall a situation in which a child went missing from “evil intent.” When a Calhoun County child is reported missing, Amerson said, it’s usually resolved quickly because the child wandered away and was not abducted.
There are 10 missing children in Alabama whose cases are considered active, according to the Alabama Department of Public Safety website.
The sheriff said he applauds the legislators for passing this law because every minute is critical when a child is missing.
“It’s important we get this notification as soon as possible. If someone didn’t report a child missing that’s a highly suspicious event,” he said.
Amerson said if an abducted child is not recovered within 48 hours it’s unlikely they will be found alive.
Joe Nabors, director of the Calhoun-Cleburne Children’s Center, said there are parents who focus on their own needs and leave children in an unsafe environment or with unsafe people. Caylee’s law will protect those children, he said.
“It will cause parents to report immediately and that way we can search quicker,” he said.
Parents should always tell officers what the child was wearing, a description of the vehicle that took the child and what the child had planned for that day, Nabors said. The Calhoun-Cleburne Children’s Center provides help with missing children searches, Nabors said, by interviewing children who may have witnessed the abduction.
For instance, Nabors said, a 13-year-old may have planned to visit friends and didn’t tell their parents, but friends could provide details of those plans.
“I feel it’s a great law and I’m glad it’s been passed,” Nabors said. “I wish we didn’t need it.”
Staff Writer Rachael Brown: 256-235-3562. On Twitter @RBrown_Star.