Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Endangered Person Advisory Program

Publication:Daily American Republic; Date:May 22, 2007; Section:Front Page; Page Number:1A

Daughter of missing Butler County woman instrumental in Missouri passing the Endangered Person Advisory Program

DAR Newspaper, Poplar Bluff Missouri

Nearly four years after her own elderly mother mysteriously disappeared, Joyce Caldwell can take a little comfort in knowing her efforts to help others in similar situations have been successful.

Last week, Gov. Matt Blunt announced the passage of Endangered Person Advisory Program that expands the Amber Alert system to include, not just abducted children, but people that go missing under “unexplained” circumstances. Missouri Sen. Scott Rupp sponsored the bill.

Caldwell’s mother, Mary Lee Grobe was 74 when she was last at her home in Butler County on Sept. 29, 2003.

Though investigators still have no answers as to what happened to Grobe, Caldwell has continued to push investigators in the case, as well as becoming an advocate for other families of missing people.

Caldwell spent the last year petitioning lawmakers and recently testified before the Missouri State Senate Judiciary and Civil Criminal Committee hearings in Jefferson City for the bill.

In addition to testifying how the law might have helped when her mother went missing, Caldwell mentioned two other local missing women in her testimony: Vicki Lour, 36, missing from Piedmont since June of 2006; and Teresa Butler, 35, missing from Risco since Jan. 25, 2006.

“Joyce Caldwell and her husband, Chris, were very instrumental in getting this passed,” Rupp said. “Their testimony was very good for legislators to hear and see how the things we do affect real lives.”

Initially, the bill was referred to as SB 67. As the end of the legislative session neared, Caldwell explained, SB 67’s language was added to another bill so it could be passed this year.

“I contacted Sen. Rupp last summer, and we began discussing it, tossing around ideas. I had read an article in AARP magazine that other states were doing this. And because there is such a growing senior population, it was something we thought was necessary,” Caldwell said. “We started speaking with the Highway Patrol and the Department of Safety. And everyone thought it was a good idea -- but would then point out that there were other groups that should be considered.”

The advisory also includes victims such as a 19-year-old kidnapping victim, a 75-yearold Alzheimer's patient who wandered off, a 14-year-old missing girl with suspicious computer correspondence or an 11-year-old Boy Scout lost in a mountain wilderness area. Currently none of these victims are covered under the standards for issuing an AMBER Alert.

The law is also intended to establish more consistent rules and procedures to aid investigators throughout the state.

The Endangered Person Advisory Program is initiated solely by Missouri law enforcement agencies using the following criteria: Is the person missing under unexplained, involuntary, or suspicious circumstances? Is the person believed to be in danger because of age, health, mental or physical disability, environment or weather conditions, in the company of a potential dangerous person or some other factor that might put the person in peril? Is there information that could assist the public in the safe recovery of the person?

The measure will go into affect this August. The bill is designed to fill a void for those missing persons whose information surrounding their disappearance fail to meet the AMBER Alert criteria, Blunt said in a statement.

"Missouri is joining a growing number of states using the AMBER Alert Program to trace missing children while the trail is still fresh," Blunt said. "The plan is ideal for law enforcement because an alert can now be used for runaways and parental child abduction cases."

The mission of the Endangered Person Advisory

Program is to develop and coordinate the efforts of law enforcement and the media in order to increase public participation in safely recovering endangered missing persons by increased communication and effective resources sharing.

The new criteria includes "unexplained" as a reason a person might be missing and opens the possibility for other factors that may put a person in danger. Original criteria permitted classifying an endangered person under suspicious circumstances only.

The Endangered Person Advisory Program is a cooperative effort between the Missouri Department of Public Safety, the Missouri State Highway Patrol, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, the Missouri Police Chiefs Association, the Missouri Sheriffs Association, and the Missouri Broadcasters Asso ciation.

“I’m confident there will be improvements in the way missing person’s cases are handled in Missouri. For every missing person that is recovered safely, I will smile. For every missing person’s case that is solved, I will feel a sense of accomplishment,” Caldwell added. “And I certainly hope there continues to be an investigation into my mother’s case."

DAR Newspaper


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