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Missing persons law, promoted by Moe Dubois, clears senate committee

Legislation promoted by the father of murdered North County teenager Amber Dubois as a means of improving law enforcement handling of missing-person cases has cleared its first hurdle in the state Senate.

Assemblyman Paul Cook, R-Beaumont, joined Assemblyman Pedro Nava, D-Santa Barbara, in authoring AB 33, which was approved 7-0 by the Senate Public Safety Committee on Tuesday.

The legislation was initiated at the request of Moe Dubois, whose 14-year-old daughter was abducted, raped and fatally stabbed by a registered sex offender last year.

John Albert Gardner III, 31, was sentenced in May to three consecutive life terms without parole for murdering and sexually assaulting Amber and 17-year-old Chelsea King of Poway.

Cook and Nava introduced AB 33 to bolster “Chelsea’s Law,” unanimously passed by the Assembly earlier this month and now under consideration in the Senate. Among other things, the legislation named for the slain Poway High School senior proposes lifetime parole for those who commit the most serious sex crimes.

Under AB 33, the Commission on Peace Officer Standards & Training would establish “minimum guidelines” for how law enforcement personnel investigate missing-person or runaway cases.

Municipal agencies could rely on the state standards or implement better ones, with the goal of law enforcement officers having a checklist laying out the steps necessary to conduct a comprehensive investigation.

“AB 33 changes the way law enforcement agencies use resources when searching for a missing person,” Cook said. “This bill is finally putting policies in place for law enforcement agencies so that they can locate missing children more efficiently in the very early hours of an investigation.”

The legislation would also require that the California Department of Justice provide a city or county, within two hours, with a list of possible suspects following the filing of a missing-person report, using the Megan’s Law sex-offender database and other resources.

“When the state already has the resources to aid in a missing child’s case, this bill becomes absolutely necessary to maximize our ability to find the missing child,” Cook said. “A case like Amber’s should never happen again, so I hope this bill can continue to find support in the Senate.”

The proposed law is slated for a hearing before the Senate Appropriations Committee, which is also expected to hold hearings on two other bills jointly introduced by Cook and Nava - Assembly Bills 34 and 1022.

AB 34 calls for the state’s Violent Crime Information Center to release missing-person reports to nonprofit groups registered with the Attorney General’s Office for the purpose of getting the word out as fast as possible about missing children.

Under existing law, the VCIC is only required to notify law enforcement agencies.

Under AB 1022, the California Department of Justice would set up a “Missing Person Rapid Response Team” available to assist any local law enforcement agency with missing-person cases on short notice.