HARRISBURG, Pa. — According to the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs), more than 600,000 individuals go missing each year across the nation.
"It's like a dream, a nightmare," said Norma Jean Fritz. In 2015, her son Jesse went missing in Tamaqua, east of Schuylkill County.
Although her son's location still remains a mystery, Fritz has not lost hope.
"I never stopped looking," she said. "It's everyday. Every single day."
To help the families of missing people in Pennsylvania, state lawmakers are pushing Governor Tom Wolf to sign House Bill 930. If signed by the governor, it would mandate Pennsylvania State Police to turn over the DNA samples of missing and unidentified persons to NamUs.
"It gives the family...a tool where they're participating," said Pa. Rep. Lynda Culver (R, Northumberland, Snyder). "They're inputting information about their loved ones."
According to data from NamUs, Pennsylvania has 467 open missing person cases, the 10th most in the nation. So far, only 10 states require reports to NamUs. These states are:
- New Mexico
- North Carolina
- West Virginia
- New York
Culver, who has been working on the bill for the last two years, said the database will provide families with counseling and status updates on their cases.
For Fritz, the bill provides a glimmer of hope.
"It would give you something to count on if, in fact, he would ever be found in a mandated state," she said. "It's one step forward, one step forward."
The bill, which has received the state Senate's approval, now waits for Gov. Wolf to either sign or veto it.
"I'm hoping that he agrees that this is a good bill and he wants to help these families," said Culver. "I feel like I'm giving these people something to hold onto. I'm empowering them to take control of a situation they had no control over."
Governor Wolf has 10 days after receiving the bill to make a decision. If he signs the bill, the law will go into effect within 60 days.