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Pennsylvania passes new law for missing persons

A mother in Schuylkill County hopes a new law going into effect will find her missing son.

SCHUYLKILL COUNTY, Pa. — Norma Fritz-Yatsko of Andreas holds photos of her son Jesse Farber close to her heart. She hasn't seen him since he disappeared nearly seven years ago.

"His case is open and active, but they're busy. There's constantly something new for law enforcement to do," said Norma Fritz-Yatsko, Jessie's mom.

Jesse was last seen in August of 2015. 

Newswatch 16 was there as crews searched for him in some woods around Tamaqua.

RELATED: Search for Missing Tamaqua Area Man

Few clues have turned up since, and Farber remains one of nearly 500 people in Pennsylvania who are considered missing.

"It makes Jesse's case feel even more like a number than what it is, and they're all just numbers," said Fritz-Yatsko.

After being inspired by Jesse's mother and other families looking for their loved ones, State Representative Lynda Schlegel Culver from Northumberland County started pushing for a new law. Her work paid off last month when the governor signed a bill that requires state police to add DNA samples into a database called the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System or NamUs.

"What NamUs does is it brings people, law enforcement, technology, and forensic science all together at one location. It empowers families who otherwise may not have felt empowered previously to input data, input personal information about their loved one who is missing," said Rep. Lynda Schlegel Culver, 108th District.

State Senator Lisa Baker of Luzerne County supported Culver's efforts and voted for the bill.

"It's a multifaceted approach: We have good policy about giving the tools law enforcement needs to help find these individuals, but also that sense to the family that we're not giving up. We are going to be there step by step with them until we bring them home," said Sen. Lisa Baker, 20th District.

While the new law requires state police to add data into NamUs, local police departments are encouraged to do the same.

Pittston Police Chief Kyle Shumosic has used NamUs in the past and says the database can help keep missing-person cases from going cold.

"Everybody has this preconceived notion that CSI and NCIS have labs in their basements and teams of detectives moving. A lot of times, it's one or two guys that are going around and doing interviews, but they're also working on other cases as well," said Chief Shumosic.

"When you talk to these families, what they want is answers. And I'm not sure if NamUs can give them the complete journey and how everything happened. But if we can reunite one family, this is absolutely worth it," said Culver.

"If their loved one is found, and they take DNA from that body, it will match up on the profile where the family member's DNA is entered," said Fritz-Yatsko.

Fritz-Yatsko has entered her own DNA into the database as she refuses to give up hope that her son Jesse will be found.

"He's my son; I mean, who else is going to look for him? Nobody else is going to look for him," said Fritz-Yatsko.

Pennsylvania is now one of 11 states that has a law for submitting missing-person cases data to NamUs, hoping this legislation will inspire other states to do the same for families with missing loved ones.


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