Missing Person Legislation Triggered By Disappearance Of Waterbury's Billy Smolinski Passes CT Senate, Now On To Governor Malloy

Billy Smolinski vanished on August 24th, 2004

Story By John Murray

   Last night the Connecticut Senate voted unanimously to approve new legislation that alters the way state and local police officers handle the report of a missing adult. The legislation, which still needs Governor Dannel Malloy's signature to become law, ensures that reports of missing adult persons are accepted and investigated by the police in an effective and timely manner.

   The legislation was triggered by the mysterious disappearance of Billy Smolinski from Waterbury in August 2004. Smolinski's family immediately suspected foul play, but they had difficulty in getting the attention of the Waterbury Police Department who told the family they had to wait three days to file a missing person report. The investigation was furthered delayed by the fact that Billy Smolinski was a vigorously fit 31-year-old male. 

   Billy Smolinski has been gone for seven years, and law enforcement officers from Waterbury, Seymour, Shelton, the State Police and the FBI have investigated his disappearance.

   Eighteen months after his disappearance a Waterbury detective told the Waterbury Observer that "Billy was probably having a beer in Europe, and would come home when he is ready."

   All indications are that Billy was murdered in August 2004 and his body buried some where in the lower Naugatuck Valley. Efforts to locate his remains continue to this day.

   Jan and Bill Smolinski have been banging on the door at the State Legislature for the past four years in an effort to reform police procedure. Each year the issue gained traction in the legislature and has evolved from recommendations to police officers, to mandating police procedures.

   Six hours after the Senate voted 24-0 to pass the legislation, Jan Smolinski was reached at her home in Cheshire, where she was sitting at her computer spreading the good news across the internet.

   "I sit here with tears," Smolinski said, "but they are bittersweet tears. It's a shame that it had to take a tragedy to make these changes, but we are grateful that something good has come out of our loss. We wish this legislation was here when Billy went missing."

Janice Smolinski's effort to change the state and federal system have been relentless.

   The legislation was championed by State Rep Vicki Nardello of Cheshire, State Senator Joan Hartley of Waterbury, State Rep Rosa Rebimbas of Naugatuck and State Rep Stephen Dargan of West Haven. The bill was also co-sponsored by State Rep Tony D'Amelio of Waterbury.

State Senator Joan Hartley was instrumental in getting the legislation passed.

   Two days before the Senate vote Jan and Bill Smolinski were in church. "The man sitting in front of me was wearing a t-shirt and on the back it said "I love you, Mom". I like to think it was a message from Billy and it made me smile. Now that we have this legislation waiting for Governor's Malloy's signature, Billy would tell me "now find me Mom, and bring me home."

 

AN ACT CONCERNING THE INVESTIGATION OF MISSING ADULT PERSONS REPORTS.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Assembly convened:
Section 1. (NEW) (Effective October 1, 2011) (a) For the purposes of this section and section 7-294o of the general statutes, as amended by this act, "law enforcement agency" means the Division of State Police within the Department of Public Safety or any municipal police department, and "adult person" means an individual who has attained the age of eighteen years.

(b) A law enforcement agency shall accept without delay any report of a missing adult person.

(c) The unit of the Division of State Police within the Department of Public Safety that investigates missing adult persons shall, as appropriate, enter all collected information relating to a missing adult person case into the National Crime Information Center database and any other applicable federal database with all practicable speed.

Sec. 2. (NEW) (Effective October 1, 2011) (a) After performing any death scene investigation when homicide is suspected, the official with custody of the human remains shall ensure that the human remains are delivered to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

(b) The Chief Medical Examiner shall obtain from the human remains (1) samples of tissue suitable for DNA typing, if possible, or (2) samples of whole bone or hair suitable for DNA typing. The Chief Medical Examiner shall immediately submit the samples obtained to the Division of Scientific Services within the Department of Public Safety.

Sec. 3. Section 7-294o of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof (Effective October 1, 2011):

(a) Not later than January 1, [2008] 2012, the Police Officer Standards and Training Council shall develop and implement a policy concerning the acceptance of missing person reports, including, but not limited to, adult missing person reports, by law enforcement agencies in this state and such agencies' response thereto. Such policy shall include, but not be limited to, (1) guidelines for the acceptance of a missing person report, (2) the types of information that a law enforcement agency should seek to ascertain and record concerning the missing person or missing adult person that would aid in locating the missing person or missing adult person, (3) the circumstances that indicate that a missing person or missing adult person is a high risk missing person, (4) the types of information that a law enforcement agency should provide to the person making the missing person report, to a family member or to any other person in a position to assist the law enforcement agency in its efforts to locate the missing person or missing adult person, and (5) the responsibilities of a law enforcement agency in responding to a missing person report and the manner of such response, including preferred methods of response that are sensitive to the emotions of the person making such report.

(b) Each police basic or review training program conducted or administered by the Division of State Police within the Department of Public Safety, the Police Officer Standards and Training Council or a municipal police department shall include training in the policy developed pursuant to subsection (a) of this section and training in the use of the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System created by the Office of Justice Program's National Institute of Justice.

Sec. 4. Section 7-282c of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof (Effective October 1, 2011):

Any municipal police department which receives a report of a missing child under [fifteen] eighteen years of age or a missing person who is eligible for assistance under subsection (a) of section 29-1f shall immediately accept such report for filing and inform all on-duty police officers of the existence of the missing child or missing person report and communicate the report to other appropriate law enforcement agencies.

This act shall take effect as follows and shall amend the following sections:

Section 1

October 1, 2011

New section

Sec. 2

October 1, 2011

New section

Sec. 3

October 1, 2011

7-294o

Sec. 4

October 1, 2011

7-282c

The following Fiscal Impact Statement and Bill Analysis are prepared for the benefit of the members of the General Assembly, solely for purposes of information, summarization and explanation and do not represent the intent of the General Assembly or either chamber thereof for any purpose. In general, fiscal impacts are based upon a variety of informational sources, including the analyst's professional knowledge. Whenever applicable, agency data is consulted as part of the analysis, however final products do not necessarily reflect an assessment from any specific department.

OFA Fiscal Note


State Impact: None

Municipal Impact: None

Explanation

Section 1 requires the Department of Public Safety (DPS) to enter all collected information relating to a missing adult person aged 18 or older into the National Crime Information Center database. It is anticipated that DPS can do so within existing resources.

In 2009, 2,092 missing adult person cases were reported in the state. It is anticipated that DPS would only input cases that are active after seven days. Therefore, it is estimated that approximately 500 cases would be entered into the system pursuant to the bill.1

Section 2 requires the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner to submit DNA samples to DPS when homicide is suspected. This provision codifies current practice and has no associated fiscal impact.

Section 3, which requires the Police Officer Standards and Training Council (POST) to develop and implement a policy on handling missing persons reports, results in no fiscal impact. In January 2008, POST issued a policy on handling and accepting missing persons reports which satisfies the intent of the bill. Additionally, the training requirements in sensitivity and the use of the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System are already included in the recruit curriculum for all police officers.

Section 4 requires municipal police departments that receive a missing persons report for a child under age 18 to: (1) accept the report and (2) notify all on-duty police officers and other law enforcement agencies. This results in no fiscal impact to municipalities because it is currently the practice of municipal police departments to promptly notify appropriate law enforcement agencies of all missing persons cases.

House “A” alters the original bill by changing the definition of an adult person from age 21 to 18 in regard to the handling of missing adult person cases by law enforcement agencies. There is no associated fiscal impact. House “A” also adds Section 4 to the original bill, which has no fiscal impact.

The Out Years

State Impact: None

Municipal Impact: None

Sources:

Department of Public Safety, "Crimes In Connecticut" 2009 Report

 
Iowa Department of Public Safety, "Missing Persons 2003 Annual Report"

OLR Bill Analysis

sHB 6113 (as amended by House "A")*

AN ACT CONCERNING THE INVESTIGATION OF MISSING ADULT PERSONS REPORTS.

SUMMARY:

BACKGROUND

Related Law

Missing Child Clearinghouse. By law, local law enforcement agencies must submit to the state Missing Child Information Clearinghouse reports of all missing (1) children under age 18, (2) mentally impaired adults age 18 or older, and (3) seniors age 65 and older. Parents may also notify the clearinghouse once they report to local police.

The clearinghouse is the state's central repository of information on missing children. But, subject to available resources, the clearinghouse may collect, process, maintain, and disseminate information to help locate missing persons other than those mentioned above (CGS § 29-1e).

Related Bill

sSB 765 (File 258), reported favorably by the Public Safety and Security Committee, contains the same provision as this bill on the actions local police departments must take on reports of missing children under age 18.

COMMITTEE ACTION

Public Safety and Security Committee

Joint Favorable Substitute

Yea

24

Nay

0

(03/08/2011)

Judiciary Committee

Joint Favorable

Yea

32

Nay

5

(04/28/2011)

TOP
1 This estimate is based upon the Iowa Missing Persons 2003 Annual Report in which statistics show that 76% of missing persons were cleared within one week. Assuming a similar rate of clearance in the Connecticut cases, approximately 1,590 cases are estimated to clear within seven days while 500 cases remain open longer.