Thursday, February 15, 2007

    Shipp's disappearance prompts legislation
    Summer Shipp disappeared without a trace Dec. 8, 2004.

A bill in the Missouri House of Representatives, the Summer Shipp Act, now proposes some change in how law enforcement agencies coordinate and exchange information about  missing people.

Shipp's daughter, Brandy Shipp, lobbied state representatives to make some changes.

"I went office to office," she said. "A lot of people were familiar with Summer Shipp."

Shipp disappeared while doing market research in a central Independence neighborhood. Despite an extensive search and investigation by local law enforcement officials and private     investigators, she has never been found, and few clues exist.

Blue Springs Rep. Bryan Pratt, R-55th, filed a bill last week to improve coordination between law enforcement agencies.

"It provides what sort of information a police officer can take in a missing person report," he said.

Then that information is put into law enforcement databases, with this bill requiring the information be submitted into a national database, Pratt said. The additional information provides a more accurate portrait of the missing person, which reaches more agencies.

He said the law requires greater itemization of information, and he expects that to expedite finding missing people.

"We know those first few days are critical," Pratt said. "It's exponential in the first few days."

"The greatest effect the bill will highlight is the importance of finding a missing person in the first three days."

Some law enforcement agencies already share the information with other agencies, but not all, he said. This bill would make all agencies conform to the same criteria.

Pratt said the bill is not designed to criticize any law enforcement agency for how they have investigated missing persons.

"It is a bill about how to do it in the future," he said.

Shipp said her mother lived in Kansas when she disappeared. She and her friends distributed her mother's photograph to television stations once they realized she was missing.

"It was up to us to get her photo to television stations," she said.

They found her car days later in Independence. An Independence police officer was writing her a ticket for abandoning the car. The officer did not know she was missing or to look for her.

The act provides guidelines about what to do when someone is missing, Shipp said.

She said her intent is to have law enforcement agencies work together more efficiently toward locating and identifying missing people. Another took other than photographs is DNA evidence.

She said DNA allows matches between missing people and unknown remains to be made faster. That reduces the uncertainty period for family and other people interested.

The act calls for agencies to collect DNA, fingerprints, dental X-rays, and any other information it can regarding the missing person after 30 days if it has not been collected already.

Pratt said the bill is getting support from Republicans and Democrats. The obstacle of getting it passed by the House of Representatives and Senate is getting the time to debate the bill.    Other bills might receive more debate time before the end of the legislative session.

Shipp said she believes area law enforcement agencies are still investigating her mother's disappearance. She has not given up hope.

"There are so many cases that aren't solved for four, six, eight years," she said. "I see so many cases around the country."

"I'm never going to give up," Shipp said.

Reach Robert Hite at or 816-350-6321.