SPRINGFIELD - Ryan Katcher's birthday is today, but he won't be home to celebrate it. He has been missing for more than five years.
His mother, Linda Katcher Griffith, tearfully asked state lawmakers on Wednesday to establish procedures that could help find her son and other missing people like him.
State Reps. Dan Brady and Bill Black are calling for police to accept reports of missing people, regardless of age, without delay so that searches can begin right away.
A concern for families and lawmakers is that police respond to reports of missing people differently based on factors such as the person's age. They say police sometimes delay searches or calling the FBI for adults because they question whether it was the missing person's choice to disappear, which people have the right to do.
"What we're trying to do under this legislation is to see that when a missing-persons report is filed that there is no reason not to take it," Brady, a Bloomington Republican, said in a House committee hearing.
Griffith, who works as a nurse, hopes the proposal helps other mothers if their children are missing.
"Everything in there outlines what you can do, so if I'm talking to another mom that has a missing (child), I can assure them that there's a plan and that things will get expedited faster," she said.
Black said the legislation would establish procedures for police across the state to put information, such as fingerprints and DNA of the missing person or family members, into national databases. The measure also would establish procedures for medical examiners or coroners in identifying human remains.
"We're not mandating law enforcement do things; we're just trying to point out there are new ways, new efforts and new technology that can help find missing people," said Black, a Danville Republican.
Texas, California, Arizona and Washington, D.C., have similar measures in place, Brady said.
In Illinois, 2,343 children under the age of 21 remained missing as of June 30, 2005, according to the state police. In the last five years, more than 194,000 missing-children reports have been filed in Illinois.
Statistics on missing adults were not immediately available.
Katcher, a 19-year-old University of Illinois sophomore, was last seen about 2 a.m. Nov. 5, 2000, when a friend drove him home from a party. By that evening, his mother said she had notified police in their hometown of Oakwood. His black Ford F-150 pickup truck also was missing.
He will turn 25 today.
The House Judiciary Committee unanimously recommended the proposal to the full House for its consideration.
The legislation is House Bill 4203.