JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The Missouri House passed legislation this week seeking to streamline the process for Amber Alerts, enabling law enforcement to issue alerts with more haste.
HB 697, filed by Rep. Curtis Trent, R-Springfield, is called ‘’Hailey’s Law” after 10-year-old Hailey Owens of Springfield. She was kidnapped and murdered in February 2014. Craig Wood was charged with her murder and is scheduled to go on trial in October.
Trent says the bill would cut the time for issuing an Amber Alert in half, as the reporting of a missing child would be done digitally rather than using the current faxing method.
House lawmakers overwhelmingly passed the legislation Wednesday night, with a final vote of 141-1. For Hailey’s mother, Stacey Barfield, and Jim and Genie Wood, the parents of Craig Wood, it was a long-awaited moment.
“It’s going faster than I thought it would,” Barfield said. “I want it passed. I’ve been at this since day one, and I’m not going to stop.”
Barfield and the Woods joined together after the death of Hailey in order to fix the delayed responses of Amber Alerts. They say that if this legislation helps save the life of even one child, it’s well worth it.
“We want to see it move through the legislative process as quickly as possible,” Jim Wood said. “We don’t another group of families to be caught up in a system that’s antiquated.”
But there’s another reason the Woods want to see this legislation move quickly through the General Assembly: Genie was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and she hopes to see the bill signed into law while she can still remember it.
While some may think it somewhat odd for the families of both the victim and the suspect to join together in a common cause, neither the Woods nor Barfield would have it any other way.
“It should not be an unlikely partnership,” Jim Wood said. “We’re trying to do good, and isn’t that what all of us want in some way?”
Both families agree they could focus on the negative side of things, but instead, they want to focus on accomplishing something good and serving as a model for others to show that something good can come from tragedy.
“Terrible, terrible, awful things happen. You can focus on the negative, or focus on the positive,” Jim Wood said. “Terrible things happen to all of us. You can get angry, depressed, all of those emotions, and we have. But you must turn them into good.”
“You can blame, or you can help,” Genie finished.
The bill now heads to the Senate, where Sen. Caleb Rowden is expected to take on the sponsorship of the legislation.
Benjamin Peters was a reporter for The Missouri Times and Missouri Times Magazine and also produced the #MoLeg Podcast. He joined The Missouri Times in 2016 after working as a sports editor and TV news producer in mid-Missouri. Benjamin is a graduate of Missouri State University in Springfield.