EYEWITNESS NEWS (WBRE/WYOU) — State lawmakers approved legislation they say will help in the search for missing persons. It requires law enforcement to collect DNA evidence and submit it to a national database.
Lawmakers say the goal is to provide another tool to help solve those cases. They want to bring closure to families whose loved ones disappeared without a trace and possibly bring those, who may be responsible to justice at courthouses like this one.
The State Senate approved House Bill 903 this week its goal.
“The key here is the legislation would require Pennsylvania would become the 11th state in the country to require law enforcement to link to the NAMUS database,” stated Senator Lisa Baker.
NAMUS is short for National Missing and Unidentified Persons System currently, law enforcement does not have to submit DNA data to the namus database. It’s optional.
Senator Lisa baker says this legislation is long overdue, “if an unidentified person is found in another state or another area if the DNA is in the namus database we perhaps can link that family member.”
Pittston City Police Chief Kyle Shumosic says the legislation can only benefit investigators who are working on missing person cases. Detectives at Pittson have been working to solve the disappearance of 44-year-old Shelva Rafte in 2006.
“It was optional for law enforcement to input the DNA into the system. Now is more of a mandatory process. If there were remains found or other evidence located it could help solve the case or solve any case,” explained Chief Shumosic.
Lawmakers say the main goal: bringing closure and justice to families of missing loved ones.
“For me, this comes down to every day for a family member, not just holidays or birthdays. They wonder what happened to their loved ones every day. They wake up and there is a void there’s something missing,” said Backer.
Every year there are 600,000 people reported missing in the United States. There are 401 active cases in Pennsylvania right now including several in our area.
“I’m going to find her. I’m going to find her. I will I have to, it’s my goal in life right now,” Pauline Bailey, whose daughter went missing in 2004.
Bailey’s 22-year-old daughter Phylicia Thomas from the Sweet Valley Area of Luzerne County disappeared in February of 2004.
She went to a party and never came home. Thomas was happy to hear that state lawmakers passed the legislation.
“I think it’s excellent. I think that it should have been done a long time ago. They just found a woman like 30 years I don’t understand why they haven’t been doing it. I hope it keeps going,” stated Bailey.
Shirley Masters and Joanne Decker have been searching for their sister 44-year-old Shelva Rafte for nearly 16 years. Rafte vanished Memorial Day weekend of 2006 in the Pittston Area.
“What gives us hope about this is that we’ve had no information on our sister Shelva in all this time and other families throughout the state that legislators have been called o to assist with,” stated Master.
“Honestly what keeps us going is knowing that it’s bigger than just us fighting the system by ourselves. It is for all the missing,” explained Decker.
The legislation has been sent to the governor for his signature. Lawmakers expect he will approve this bi-partisan bill.