Victims' Rights Caucus

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Congressman Ted Poe (TX-02) and Congressman Chris Murphy (CT-5) testified today at the Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security hearing about the importance of their legislation, H.R. 3695, the Help Find the Missing Act Billys Law.

I would like to thank my colleague, Congressman Murphy for taking up this worthy cause, and for asking me to work with him on this important, common sense legislation, said Congressman Poe. I would also like to thank Janice Smolinski for sharing with us the story of her son Billy. This legislation is named after her son, but it is aimed to help the all those families like the Smolinskis.

Having served as a chief felony prosecutor and judge in Harris County, Texas for 30 years, I know firsthand the hurdles law enforcement and families have to deal with in trying to solve these cases, Poe continued. Many of these problems could easily be addressed by creating a publically accessible national database provided for in Billys Law.

Every year tens of thousands of Americans go missing, never to be seen by their loved ones again. At the same time, there are also an estimated 40,000 sets of unidentified human remains that are being held or disposed of across the country, and no organized system to match cases and remains.

Law enforcement cant match the passion and information that family members possess when it comes to searching for a missing person. By building a powerful public database of missing persons and unidentified remains, Billys Law gives families the tools they need to get closure on their personal nightmares, said Congressman Murphy.

This legislation is named after Billy Smolinski of Waterbury, Connecticut who went missing on August 24, 2004 at the age of 31. Billys family knows all-too-well the systemic challenges in trying to find the missing. They quickly learned that while federal law mandates law enforcement report missing children, there are no such requirements for adults or unidentified bodies.

Billys mother, Janice Smolinski, also testified today, stating: Uncertainty is a cancer that crushes the spirit of loved ones left behind. With this bill, we have an opportunity to make changes nationwide and gives families like mine hope for a better, more certain tomorrow.

H.R. 3695, Billys Law:

  • Authorizes funding for the National Missing Persons and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) to provide a missing persons/unidentified database that the public could access and contribute;
  • Connects NamUs with the FBIs National Crime Information Center (NCIC) in order to create more comprehensive databases and streamlining the reporting process for local law enforcement;
  • Creates an incentive grants program to help states, local law enforcement and medical examiners/coroners report missing persons and unidentified remains to NCIC, NamUs, and the National DNA Index System (NDIS); and
  • Calls on the DOJ to issue guidelines and best practices on handling missing persons and unidentified remains cases to help find the missing.

Congressman Ted Poe serves on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security and is founder and co-chair of the Congressional Victims Rights Caucus advocating on behalf of victims in Washington, DC.

Kristina Rose, Acting Director, National Institute of Justice at the U.S. Department of Justice, and Stephen Morris, Deputy Assistant Director, Crim