Bill to require reporting on missing persons and unidentified bodies headed to the Senate

Investigations

AUSTIN (KXAN) – From his office, David Fritts watched as a bill that bears his son’s name was presented to members of the Texas House. 

David Fritts said his son’s remains were finally identified after NamUs got involved. (Courtesy: David Fritts) 

“I had tears of joy that it’s gotten this far,” said Fritts from Houston. “It’s long overdue.”

His son, Joseph Fritts, disappeared in October 2017. Fritts said his remains weren’t identified for nearly two years.

He believes “John and Joseph’s Law” would have made a difference for his family.

“Members, this bill is close to my heart. I’m proud for this to be the first bill that I bring before this House,” State Rep. Lacey Hull, R-Houston said.

Closure for families 

The bill cleared the Texas House on Tuesday and is now headed to the Senate.

It would require a law enforcement agency receiving a report of missing child or person to enter case details into the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, also called NamUs, within 60 days. The information would include dental records, fingerprints, and clothing descriptions.

Rep. Lacey Hull, (R) Houston, presenting her very first bill “John and Joseph’s Law” on the House floor.

Details about unidentified bodies would be required to be entered into NamUs by a justice of the peace or a medical examiner within 10 working days after fingerprints and dental records are determined or within 60 days after the investigation begins. 

“Using this system will not only save time, money and resources in solving missing persons cases, but bring closure to heartbroken Texas families who are still searching for their loved ones,” Hull explained.

The law would not require additional funding and would only apply to cases moving forward.

KXAN’s investigation “Missing in Texas” discovered that 10 states have passed laws requiring law enforcement and medical examiners to report case details to NamUs for all missing and unidentified persons cases. 

“While many Texas agencies do use the database – not all do,” Hull said as she talked about both Joseph’s case and another Houston resident whose name is also on the bill. 

Bittersweet reality

It took John Almendarez’s family 12 years to find their father. 

His family said had his information been entered into NamUs after his missing persons report was filed, they would have found him sooner. 

Almendarez’s daughter, Alice, connected with Fritts after hearing about his son. She also watched Hull present the bill online from work.

They’ve both been pushing for this law.

“It’s kind of bittersweet,” Fritts said. “It’s good that something like this is finally being done… sad knowing families are going through this right now.”

Right before it passed out of the House, Hull said “This is for you David and Alice.”

If it passes in the Senate, it would be sent to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk.

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