By Mannix Porterfield
Skylar Neese’s tragic end inspired the House of Delegates to expand the Amber Alert program Wednesday to immediately notify police and the public about missing children.
Last summer, the teenager vanished from her family’s Star City apartment, only to turn up dead across the state line in Pennsylvania.
Existing law had barred inclusion of her case in the Amber Alert system, since only known abductees are targeted.
Skylar was no ordinary missing youngster, but, in fact, served as a page eight years ago in the House, assigned to Delegate Charlene Marshall, D-Monongalia.
Holding up a color photograph of the teenager, Marshall said laws beefing up law enforcement capacities are one reason why the Legislature exists, and the so-called Skylar’s Law is an example.
Skylar last was seen climbing into a motor vehicle near her home, and she left without taking glasses, medications or other personal effects that would suggest a planned visit, Marshall pointed out.
Yet, the child was dismissed as a runaway, the delegate said.
“This is simply unacceptable,” she said.
“Skylar’s story is a horribly tragic one. I can’t begin to imagine the pain her parents and family members have suffered. Yet, her father had the courage to travel here from Monongalia County to explain to the House Judiciary Committee why this bill is needed. He’ll never get Skylar back. He simply doesn’t want any other child or parent to suffer the same fate.”
Delegate Carol Miller, R-Cabell, said the first 24 hours after a child turns up missing is “very, very important.”
In another era, Miller recalled seeing the photos of missing children on milk cartons.
“I often wondered what happened to them,” Miller commented.
“Think how long it took to even get that picture put on the back of that milk carton.”
Another supporter of HB2453, approved on a 98-0 vote, Delegate Randy Smith, R-Preston, said, “Times have changed and we have to change with them.”
With the Internet and social networks, he said, parents and police have another tool to combat “these weirdos, these pedophiles” who attack children.
“This is just a small step in that direction to start making the changes that we need to do as human beings, as parents and grandparents, as aunts and uncles,” he added.
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