HARRISBURG, DAUPHIN COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Closure and peace of mind, that’s the idea behind a new state law.
And a local family played a major role in the passing of that law.
Governor Tom Wolf was surrounded by the families of missing persons and lawmakers Tuesday as he signs House Bill 930. This was a ceremonial signing as the official signing was earlier this year.
The disappearance of 44-year-old Shelva Rafte from Pittston was a key factor in creating the law. She vanished without trace on memorial day weekend in 2006.
The law requires local law enforcement to collect and deliver the DNA of a missing person, a child, or an identified deceased person to the Pennsylvania State Police for submission to the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System or NAMUS.
Basically, that DNA can then be used by police departments around the country, should they find human remains, or even evidence that could help track the person should they be alive.
“We finally have one step forward and there’s a lot of hope for the future it is also for other families,“ Joanne Decker, Shelva Rafte’s sister.
“I fear very excited but I also felt very emotional coming down. I couldn’t help but not think what this bill really means for the families. It gives them hope possibly closure,” said Shirley Masters, Shelve Rafte’s sister.
Norma Fritz’s son Jesse from Tamaqua went missing in 2015.
“As soon as law enforcement are educated on it it just is going to make sense. It’s going to make a lot of sense,“ added Norma Fritz.
Lawmakers hope this is the first step in helping families get answers
“The families have been impacted in a way that none of us will ever know. Everything holiday every birthday every Christmas, they think about a loved one,” explained Senator Lisa Baker (r) 20th district.
The Rafte family tells Eyewitness News they will never stop searching for their loved one and they hope their efforts will help bring closure and peace to other families searching for their loved ones.