Texas House passes bill inspired by Athena Strand’s murder.

Texas lawmakers have passed a bill that would allow law enforcement to issue a regional alert when a child goes missing without meeting AMBER Alert criteria. The legislation was influenced by the tragic murder of 7-year-old Athena Strand last November and is one step closer to codifying “Athena Alerts” into law.

The proposed law, known as HB 3556, would enable law enforcement to bypass the requirements for a statewide AMBER Alert and issue a regional alert to people within a 100-mile radius of the location where the child is believed to have gone missing or was last seen. This would speed up the delivery of information to the public if the case fails to meet the criteria for an AMBER Alert.

Maitlyn Gandy, Athena’s mother, expressed her appreciation for the support of lawmakers in a statement, saying: “If a localized alert had been issued as soon as Athena went missing, it could have made a difference. We will never know, but I do know that I never want another parent to feel the helplessness that I felt.”

Benson Varghese, Gandy’s attorney, hailed the bill as “common sense legislation” that will not result in additional taxes on the public. “It extends an alert system that is already in place, allowing it to be used locally during the early stages of an investigation into the disappearance of a child,” he added. The bill is not intended to replace the AMBER Alert but to complement it.

The proposed law is expected to be more effective due to its localized nature. According to Varghese, more people are likely to pay closer attention to regional alerts. “The sooner we can get the word out, the more likely a child can be found,” he said.

The bill will now be reviewed by the Texas Senate before it is sent to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk for approval. Athena Strand was abducted from her home on Nov. 30 in rural Wise County and killed by a contract driver for FedEx. The driver, Tanner Horner, has since been indicted on capital murder and aggravated kidnapping charges, with prosecutors seeking the death penalty.

In conclusion, the proposed law aims to increase the efficiency of the alert system and prevent tragedies like Athena’s from happening again. By enabling local alerts earlier in an investigation, the public can be informed immediately, and law enforcement can increase the chances of finding missing children.

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