Among the more than 110 bills passed by Missouri lawmakers this year is one designed to help law enforcement officers track a missing person through the potential victim’s cell phone signal.
If signed by Governor Jay Nixon (D), the bill would require cell phone companies to provide police with the location of any customer who’s been reported missing or believed to be in danger. The sponsor, State Rep. Jeanie Lauer (R, Blue Springs), says it’s in response to the 2007 kidnapping and murder of Kelsey Smith in the Kansas City area.
“Her father, who actually (was) a police officer (at the time), was not able to get the cell phone providers to provide that information," Lauer said. "By the time they actually were able to find her she was already dead.”
Smith, 18, was abducted in the parking lot of a shopping center in her hometown of Overland Park, Kansas. Her body was found four days later across the state line in Missouri. Edward Hall of Olathe, Kansas, pleaded guilty in 2008 to Smith's murder and was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
"Had this technology been available for use immediately, they would have been able to find her in like 45 minutes," Lauer said.
The bill includes language that would protect cell phone companies from lawsuits for sharing location information with police in emergency situations. Lauer says the company that initially withheld Kelsey Smith’s cell phone records from police testified in favor of the bill this year. A similar law was passed in Smith's home state of Kansas in 2009.
If Governor Nixon signs the bill, it would take effect August 28th.