NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The state senator who represents Marshall County says he will sponsor legislation to make it a felony for a parent, legal guardian, or caretaker to not notify law enforcement of the disappearance of a child within 24 hours.
The bill comes on the heels of the Casey Anthony verdict last week. Senate Majority Caucus Chairman Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro) announced on Wednesday he will be the Senate sponsor of a bill filed in the state House of Representatives by Rep. Tony Shipley (R-Kingsport).
"The Casey Anthony trial has shined a bright light on the gap in many state's laws, including Tennessee's, regarding the reporting of a missing child," Ketron said in a prepared announcement. "It should be unacceptable under our state law to not report a child's disappearance as it hampers efforts to return them to safety, or in the most severe circumstance where death occurs, it greatly impacts law enforcement's investigation."
Ms. Anthony failed to report her daughter missing to local authorities for a month and Florida law does not provide any penalties for this inaction. Tennessee law also has no penalty associated with a failure to report a missing child. The Shipley/Ketron bill makes it a class E felony to not report a missing child.
Ketron is a former president of the Child Abuse Prevention Foundation associated with the National Exchange Club. He helped establish 122 child abuse prevention centers, including those located in Jackson, Memphis, Murfreesboro and Nashville. He was attending a national symposium of that group last week when the verdict was delivered. He said he immediately received dozens of email messages from constituents asking for legislative action to be taken.
In his legislative office on July 13, Ketron spoke with Tennessee Children's Services Commissioner Kate O'Day regarding the need for the legislation.