Missing Child Legislation Pushes Through to TN House Committee

“Evelyn Boswell’s Law” Passed Through The House Criminal Justice Subcommittee On Wednesday And Will Go Before Full House Committee Next Week.

Tennessee Capitol Building in Nashville

Image Credit: TBI & capitol.tn.gov

Published March 5, 2021

Nashville, TN – Tennessee House Bill 384, also known as ‘Evelyn Boswell’s Law” passed through the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee on Wednesday. The bill will go before the full House Committee next week.

The bill is sponsored by State Representative John Crawford of Kingsport. It was previously passed by the House last year, when the primary sponsor was Representative Timothy Hill of Blountville, who did not return to the legislature this year. However, it did not go through the Senate.

Named for Sullivan County toddler Evelyn Boswell, a fifteen-month-old who disappeared and was later found dead, the legislation will revise the current law in regards to reporting a child as missing.

The current law requires that a parent or guardian must “report the child to a police or sheriff’s office, Tennessee bureau of investigation, or any law enforcement officer” if they know or suspect that a child for which they are responsible for is missing, and they must provide all available, relevant facts to assist in locating the child.

The proposed legislation would stipulate that parents and guardians must make that report within no more than 24 hours after determining that the child is missing. This would apply for all minors ages 12 and under.

Failure to do so would result in a Class A misdemeanor. Conviction would come with a $2,500 fine and possible jail time of 11 months and 20 days. If the child is later found to have bodily harm or to be dead, it would become a Class C felony with a punishment of a $10,000 fine and up to 15 years in jail.

The bill also allows for prosecution of anyone making a false report against a parent for failing to report a missing child.

It has been determined that the economic impact of the bill would not be significant. The percentage of unreported missing children who are not returned home within the 24 hour window would not result in enough Class A misdemeanor prosecutions to cause a financial impact to local governments.

Evelyn Boswell was reported missing on February 18, 2020, by her grandfather. It was later determined that she had been last seen around Thanksgiving 2019. After a nationwide search, her body was found in March 2020 on the property of Evelyn’s mother, Megan Boswell.

Megan Boswell, 18, never reported her daughter to be missing. She now faces 19 felony charges, including aggravated child abuse, aggravated child neglect, and felony murder.

Crawford told subcommittee members that Evelyn’s parents did “everything they could to give our local law enforcement and TBI the runaround. They were told she was with the grandmother in North Carolina. They were told she was with friends traveling on vacation. All this time, the little girl had already been passed.”

The corresponding Senate Bill is sponsored by Senator Jon Lundberg of Bristol. It has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Tennessee is a mandatory reporting state. Anyone who suspects that a child is being harmed should report it to the proper authorities.

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