Lawmakers to introduce 'Evelyn's Law'

Hank Hayes • Feb 26, 2020 at 2:04 PM

NASHVILLE — Three Northeast Tennessee lawmakers have introduced an amendment to existing legislation that would increase penalties against parents or guardians who fail to expediently report a missing child to a law enforcement officer or appropriate agency.

The measure is being called “Evelyn’s Law” in honor of 15-month-old missing Sullivan County toddler Evelyn Boswell, and it requires parents or guardians to verbally report a child in their care is missing, has been abducted, or has run away within 48 hours of that child’s disappearance, followed by a written report as requested by law enforcement.

The lawmakers behind the amendment are Rep. Timothy Hill, R-Blountville; Rep. John Crawford, R-Kingsport; and Rep. Bud Hulsey, R-Kingsport.

The law would apply in instances when a child’s whereabouts are unknown to a parent or guardian and that individual knows, believes, or has substantial reason to believe the child’s whereabouts are unknown to any other individual tasked with temporarily supervising a child. Situations where there is knowledge that a child has been abducted; has suffered serious bodily harm, abuse, or sexual exploitation; or who has run away would also be included in reporting requirements outlined under Evelyn’s Law.

“This legislation is the result of ongoing conversations with Sullivan County Sheriff Jeff Cassidy, and his input and feedback has helped us create a solution that may be extremely beneficial in these specific instances,” said Hill. “While we continue to pray for little Evelyn’s safe return, we must continue our work strengthening state laws so we can hold those with no regard for the well-being or safety of their children accountable for their reckless behavior.”

As a result of Evelyn’s Law, failing to report or delaying a report while demonstrating reckless disregard for the safety of a child would be considered a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to 11 months and 29 days in jail, a fine of up to $2,500 or both.

If a parent or guardian fails to report or delays reporting with reckless disregard resulting in serious bodily harm or death, he or she would be charged with a Class C felony, punishable by three to 15 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

“I am honored to join with Chairman Hill and Chairman Hulsey to support this initiative that will ultimately provide additional protections for Tennessee children,” said Crawford. “I appreciate the tireless work of our local law enforcement agencies for their continued efforts on the situation involving Evelyn Boswell, and I look forward to passage of this legislation so we can add another effective tool that our law enforcement and judicial communities can utilize in these instances.”

“Our entire community is in disbelief that the well-being of this child has been jeopardized by an individual entrusted with her care,” said Hulsey. “We are hopeful this proposed legislation can better assist law enforcement communities across this state so similar situations are avoided in the future and so we can better protect our most innocent citizens.”