The Senate will next consider the legislation named for a Monongalia County teenager whose body was found in Pennsylvania earlier this year.
The full House of Delegates approved Skylar’s Law with a 98-0 vote on Wednesday at the State House. It would expand the state’s Amber Alert system to include any child who has disappeared and is believed to be in danger.
“Time is of the essence when someone is missing,” said Monongalia County Delegate Charlene Marshall, the main sponsor of the bill.
Skylar Neese, 16, was last seen alive last summer when she got into a waiting car after leaving her family’s Star City home. She was initially considered a runaway so an Amber Alert was not issued for her.
Skylar’s father, Dave, has talked with lawmakers about the bill. “He does not want to see another family go through what he and his wife and the remainder of the family has gone through,” Delegate Marshall said.
Right now, Amber Alerts in West Virginia are issued through a partnership between State Police, the West Virginia Broadcasters, the West Virginia Emergency Alert System and the National Weather Service.
An emergency message is sent to alert the public when a child, 17 or younger, has been abducted and it is believed the child’s life is in grave danger.
Law enforcement officers must have enough descriptive information about the child, the abductor and the suspect’s vehicle to believe an immediate broadcast will help locate the child.
This bill would open those restrictions up in some ways, possibly leading to more Amber Alerts.
“I think this is something we need to do to show the youth of West Virginia, parents and children, that we are definitely behind our young people,” Delegate Marshall said on Wednesday’s MetroNews Talkline.
At this point, no one has been charged with a role in Skylar Neese’s death.