Two years ago I traveled to Colorado to meet with members of the advocacy group Families of Homicide Victims and Missing Persons (FOHVAMP). The goal of the meeting was to learn about the cold case legislation that they had passed a few years earlier and to develop a road map to do the same thing in Florida. The legislation passed in Colorado created a statewide database of all unsolved homicides and missing persons. They also started a cold case task force to review best practices regarding cold cases throughout the state.
Upon my return to Florida, I started seeking meetings with state lawmakers. Most were intrigued, but not quite willing to sponsor legislation. As chance would have it, Florida State Senator Aaron Bean had read an article about me in the local paper and sent me a letter thanking me for my service to victims and offering his help if needed. I jumped at the opportunity and quickly scheduled a meeting with the Senator about cold case legislation.
Last March Senator Bean introduced a Bill during the 2014 legislative session that was almost identical to the Colorado law. We asked for the database, task force and a review team that would offer a fresh set of eyes to review cases submitted by law enforcement agencies. Unfortunately, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement tagged the Bill with a $2.1 million price tag. Even though Colorado was able to do the same thing for about $60,000, FDLE said they would need to hire 20+ employees to perform the requested tasks. Not surprisingly the Bill never gained any traction and died without any real discussion. But Senator Bean committed to not giving up and assured me we’d try again.
After a number of meetings and discussions with lawmakers and law enforcement officials, the original Bill was stripped down to just a task force. It was very frustrating to me that officials couldn’t understand the public safety importance of this type of Bill. As I reminded individuals over and over, the man that murdered my dad could be behind their wife in line at the bank, or live down the street from their child’s bus stop. In the end, I had to keep an eye on the bigger picture; a task force was a step in the right direction, albeit a small one. We were moving forward.
Last week Senator Bean filed Senate Bill 1482 – Cold Case Task Force in the Florida Senate. We also have House Bill 1115 filed by Rep. Janet Adkins in the Florida House of Representatives. The Senate Bill has been referred to Criminal Justice, Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice, and Fiscal Policy for review. I may travel to Tallahassee in the coming weeks to testify before these committees in hopes of making this task force a real thing. Read the Bill language below.