AUSTIN (KXAN) — A bill requiring law enforcement and medical examiners to share case details is gaining momentum.
John and Joseph’s Law filed by Texas House Rep. Lacey Hull, R-Houston, has been assigned to the Homeland Security and Public Safety committee. Four other House lawmakers have signed on as joint authors.
“It has been wonderful to see the growing support for John and Joseph’s Law. I’m excited to have Chairman White and other members of the Homeland Security & Public Safety committee joint author this bill. I’m looking forward to presenting HB 1419 to the committee and am committed to seeing this bill signed into law,” Hull said.
The bill would require details including dental records, fingerprint and other physical characteristics to be entered into the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, or NamUs, based in Fort Worth.
Law enforcement would be required to enter information for missing person reports within 30 days of receiving the report.
The Justice of the Peace or medical examiners would be required to enter details for unidentified bodies no later than the 60th day after the date the death is reported.
Rep. Hull’s office said they have a hearing scheduled for March 18th regarding the bill which is named after John Almendarez and Joseph Fritts, both from Houston.
Their families searched for years to find them after reporting them missing. They said had their information been entered into NamUs after their missing person reports were filed, they would have found them sooner.
In both cases, the families explained that the bodies were found within days or weeks after they were reported missing.
“This is not just about the unnecessary anguish and torture families are put through for years, searching for loved ones. This is also about government waste and inefficiency. We can do better, and we will do better, more efficiently, more effectively,” said David Fritts, Joseph’s father.
KXAN’s investigation “Missing in Texas” last month 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.
State Sen. Carol Alvarado, D-Houston, filed a companion bill in the Senate which has already been referred to the Criminal Justice committee.