When a child is missing, every minute matters. This past summer, Jevon Wameling waited more than two weeks to let Utica Police know his son Levon. Jevon Wameling pled guilty to manslaughter last week and prosecutors say he put the child's body in the Mohawk river. Oneida County District Attorney Scott McNamara says the case was one of the most difficult he has handled in his career.
"They were limited in a lot of the information. The first 48 hours in any investigations, especially a missing person or a deceased individual whether it is foul play or not is crucial," said Oneida County legislator David Gordon.
Gordon has proposed a new law that would allow for a felony charge if parents wait more than an hour to report a child 4 years-old or younger missing. Gordon's proposed "Levon's Law" says parents of a child between 5 and 8 need to notify police within 3 hours if they believe their child is missing. For older, presumably more independent children between 9 and 15 years old, parent would have to call police if their child was missing for 12 hours. Gordon says the law would give police and prosecutors another tool and potentially carry more weight than a simple endangering the welfare of a child misdemeanor charge.
"They really have to have a starting and a focal point and that really starts, I believe, with reporting the whereabouts of your child and if they're deceased or not," said Gordon.
Gordon admits the law would not have saved Levon Wameling but that his death and the difficult investigation show the need for tougher penalties.
"It's a sad day in Oneida County, it's a sad day in the state of New York, any state where you have to propose a law like this because you hope everybody acts in a manner they should, especially as a parent or caregiver but that's where we are," said Gordon.
A similar law has also been proposed on the state level. Gordon hopes the Oneida County law would spark some action on the stalled bill in Albany.