Hazleton Standard Speaker
Pennsylvania’s version of Caylee’s Law, sponsored by the Hazleton area’s state representative, won unanimous approval in the House on Tuesday.
House Bill 1841 would make it a third-degree felony for a parent or person responsible for a child’s welfare to intentionally give false information to law enforcement officials investigating a crime against a child.
A companion bill sponsored by Rep. Justin Simmons, R-131, that makes concealing the death of a child a third-degree felony also won unanimous approval in the house.
Caylee’s Law is in reference to Caylee Marie Anthony, the 2-year-old Florida child who was found dead after her mother, Casey Anthony, did not report the child missing for 31 days.
However, state Rep. Tarah Toohil, R-116, said the bill is not just for Caylee Anthony, but for all children, including two Hazleton area children who died at the hands of care-givers.
Xavier Simmons of West Hazleton was 3 months old when he died in 2008 after his mother’s boyfriend became enraged as Xavier fussed in his bassinet, shook the baby boy several times and slammed his head against a hard object.
Emmanuel Gonzalez of Hazleton was 2 years old when he died in December 2007. The boyfriend of Emmanuel’s mother allegedly slapped and spanked the boy during potty training, causing a blunt force trauma and compounding several other episodes of abuse in the days before the boy’s death.
“This bill is not only Caylee’s Law, but also Xavier’s and Emmanuel’s, too,” Toohil said.
Toohil said laws such as those proposed by HB 1841 and 1842 would strengthen the legal accountability of parents and those responsible for the well-being of children.
Her legislation, she said, was crafted to accomplish three objectives: expand the definition of responsible parties to include not only the parent but also people who live with the parent, such as a boyfriend, girlfriend or guardian; protect children by requiring the truth from the people involved in a criminal investigation, and elevate violations of the laws from misdemeanor to felony.
“This bill protects our children by requiring that the people involved tell the truth in these investigations,” Toohil said. “In the case of Xavier Simmons, false reports were made to emergency responders and law enforcement. The doctors at the hospital lost vital time listening to the boyfriend’s lies.”
Both bills will now move to the Senate for consideration.