NASHVILLE — “Evelyn Boswell’s Law” is on its way to be signed by Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee.
The state House passed the legislation that previously had been passed by the state Senate on Thursday.
The measure was sponsored in the House by state Rep. John Crawford, R-Kingsport.
“This was a tragedy that happened back in our region in Northeast Tennessee,” Crawford told lawmakers on the House floor as he stood with other House members who contributed to the bill. “This was the vision of former Representative Timothy Hill. He carried this bill (last year) and got it through the House and it was not took up (by the Senate) due to COVID.”
Known as “Evelyn Boswell’s Law” in honor of deceased Sullivan County toddler Evelyn Boswell, the bill requires a report of a missing child to law enforcement or the appropriate authority within 24 hours of the child’s disappearance. Under the bill, failure to report while demonstrating reckless disregard for the safety of that child would be considered a Class A misdemeanor. This is punishable by up to 11 months and 29 days in jail, a fine of up to $2,500 or both.
An investigation into the death of the 15-month-old is ongoing. Her mother and sole legal guardian, Megan Boswell, has remained behind bars since being arrested on multiple charges of making false reports. In August, a Sullivan County grand jury indicted her on numerous charges, including two counts of felony murder; one count of aggravated child abuse; one count of aggravated child neglect; one count of tampering with evidence; one count of abuse of a corpse; one count of failure to report a death under suspicious, unusual, or unnatural circumstances; and 12 counts of false reports.
“Our community did everything we possibly could, from searches and we had hope we would find this baby but we didn’t. She was murdered,” Crawford said.
According to the 2002 National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Runaway, and Throwaway Children report, National Estimates of Missing Children: An Overview, approximately 420,300 children under the age of 11 go missing each year nationwide. Of those, 310,000 are re- ported to law enforcement.
In 99.8% of all unreported missing children cases, the missing children were returned home or located. It can be reasonably assumed the vast majority of these were within the 24-hour window, pursuant to this legislation.
“Therefore, there will not be enough Class A misdemeanor prosecutions to result in a significant impact to local government,” the bill’s fiscal note states.
State prosecutors have announced they will seek life imprisonment without parole for Megan Boswell, who was 18 years old at the time of Evelyn’s death in December 2019.