"Cousins' Law" Could Fill in the Gaps for Iowa's Missing Children
By Jillian Petrus, Reporter
EVANSDALE, Iowa - "Cousins' Law" is a bill that a neighbor in Evansdale proposed about three months into the search for Lyric Cook and Elizabeth Collins. Lyric Cook-Morrissey was 10-years-old and Elizabeth Collins was 8-years-old when they disappeared from Evansdale on July 13. They were last seen riding bikes toward Meyer's Lake. Hunters discovered their bodies last Wednesday in Bremer County.
The Cousins' Law proposal is now getting more attention as we approach the legislative session in January.
So what exactly is Cousins' Law, and how does it plan to make a positive change for Iowa's missing children?
State Senator Jeff Danielson of Cedar Falls says the core of "Cousins' Law" is a quick response. Those supporting the proposal say technology is the key to reaching a community faster when a child goes missing.
"We don't want to infringe on what people know is an Amber Alert," Danielson says. In the case of Lyric and Elizabeth, the girls did not fit the criteria for the issuing of an Amber Alert, because there was not clear immediate evidence the girls had been abducted. An Amber Alert is also based on federal law, whereas "Cousins' Law" would apply only to Iowa. Danielson says Cousins' Law might help fill in these grey areas for Iowa's missing children.
"Hopefully, we can come up with a rapid response alert for when children go missing when they don't meet the criteria of an Amber Alert."
The rough draft of Cousins' Law shows an emphasis on new media. A mass text message and voicemail alerts will be sent to nearby neighbors and businesses within the first hour and a half a child is reported missing to police.
"It's easy to want to accomplish everything, but realistically, that's now how laws change."
Some critics of "Cousins' Law" say it's too intrusive too fast. A portion of the bill proposes volunteers search neighborhood homes if a child is not found within two hours. Danielson says every criticism needs to be considered so that a new law honors the memory of Lyric and Elizabeth.
"We want swift justice for whoever did this, but we also want positive change to come from this tragedy."
The petition backing "Cousins' Law" already has more than 10,000 signatures.