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Politics

'Caylee's Laws' Propose Felony Charge in Missing Children Cases

September 18, 2011 - 6:00pm

Bills that seek to create a law that would have allowed an Orlando mother to be punished for failing to report her daughter missing before the girl was found dead will be reviewed based on need, not emotion, a state senator said Monday.

Nor will the committee second-guess the prosecutor who initially charged Casey Anthony with child neglect, only to decide not to include that charge when presenting the homicide case to a jury.

On Monday, members of the Senate Select Committee on Protecting Florida's Children, charged with determining if there is a need to craft legislation, expressed plans to use caution when advancing any of the five bills that have been proposed in the wake of Anthonys acquittal this summer.

In my view, the committee is not here to second-guess the jury, said Committee Chairman Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart.

Under the bills now before the Senate and House, each dubbed "Caylee's Law" for Anthonys 2-year-old daughter, parents and guardians would face a felony charge if they fail to alert authorities when a child goes missing.

Caylee was reported missing July 15, 2008, after a series of events prompted her grandmother, Cindy Anthony, to track down her daughter, who was at her boyfriend's Orange County apartment. Caylee was nowhere to be found.

Casey Anthony then told her mother the story she later repeated to law enforcement and maintained until her trial: that Caylee was taken by a baby sitter named Zenaida one month earlier.

Currently, failing to report a missing child can be a misdemeanor.

Florida Department of Law Enforcement Director Donna Uzzell said the committee should use caution if setting a timeline for people to report a child missing.

A mandate could result in unintended consequences, she said.

Parents could either believe the other parent has the child or they are being vindictive against a former partner, she said. Also, she noted that many times parents dont report a child missing immediately if the child has been a frequent runaway, and some parents actually believe there is a waiting period before a child can be reported missing.

The committee will continue to meet through the end of the year.

Contact Jim Turner at jturner@sunshinestatenews.com or at (850) 727-0859.

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