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Delaware bill strengthens missing child reporting requirements

Legislation motivated by a tabloid murder case last year is advancing in the Delaware General Assembly.

Members of the House of Representatives have unanimously passed a bill (HB 256) to strengthen requirements for reporting a missing child. 

Lawmakers were heavily lobbied last summer to consider a Delaware version of Caylee’s Law, named after Caylee Anthony.  The two-year-old girl Florida girl was reported missing by her grandmother nearly a month after she had last been seen with her mother in 2008.  The girl’s body was discovered near their home several months later.  Casey Anthony was found “not guilty” in her 2011 trial. 

“It’s absolutely critical when you have a missing child situation that it is reported as quickly as possible to increase the chances of finding the child,” House Majority Leader Peter Schwartzkopf (D-Rehoboth Beach) said.  Schwartzkopf, a retired state trooper, added that “we want to make sure there is no doubt that if a parent or guardian does not report a missing child, they will face consequences.” 

The bill would subject a person to a charge of endangering the welfare of a child if he or she fails to report a missing child and the child becomes neglected or is harmed as a result. 

The legislation followed a review from Attorney General Beau Biden, who was asked by lawmakers to consider the viability of a Delaware law and how it could fit into the Delaware Code.  Biden suggested a small addition to clarify the parent’s reporting responsibility.  The bill adds “including failing to report a missing child” to the crime of endangering the welfare of a child.  The crime is punishable by up to five years in prison, depending on whether the child is harmed or dies as a result of the neglect.

The bill heads to the Delaware State Senate.

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