Friday, June 22, 2007

New missing persons reform law in Connecticut

Normally, I do not post about laws, but I felt this is worth posting since the law was introduced by the family of one of the missing people on this blog, William "Billy" Smolinski. It also is a victory for missing persons advocates, provided that these changes do come to pass.
I also think Janice Smolinski's idea about missing persons playing cards for prisoners is an excellent suggestion, especially since a similar method has worked in the cases of unsolved murders.

Residents Fight For Legislation
by Josh Morgan
Herald Staff
Talk to any mom and you’ll quickly discover there is no stronger force in
nature than a mother’s love for her children. It is a force that can turn even
the most quiet and reserved woman into an outspoken advocate for
change in Connecticut.
Just ask Cheshire resident Janice Smolinski.
The strange story of her son’s disappearance began nearly three years ago,
and the flaws the Smolinski family has encountered during the investigation has
turned Janice into a different woman.
With her newfound strength, Janice Smolinski spearheaded legislation — with
the help of State Rep. Vickie Nardello, D-Prospect — that will change the way
missing person cases are handled in Connecticut. The legislation was unanimously
approved by both the state House of Representatives and state Senate this
session. Last week, Gov. M. Jodi Rell signed the bill. The Smolinskis now hope
change in Connecticut, and hopefully across the United States, will be on the
“Not only does Connecticut have a problem,” Janice said, “the entire
country has a problem.” She believes the law enforcement system is broken when
it comes to handling missing persons cases.
Getting changes implemented, however, has been a long and emotional journey
that also exposed flaws in the system. Flaws the Smolinski family hope will
change. From lost DNA samples to slow responses from the police, Janice’s hopes
are that the system will be revamped; a system that she says has treated her
family unfairly.
Her story begins on August 24, 2004, the day Janice’s 31-year-old son,
William Smolinski Jr., went missing. Billy, as he often was called, asked a
neighbor to watch his dog Harley while he was out of town for a few days. When
the neighbor went to Billy’s house, the dog was locked inside, but no key had
been left out as planned. Immediately the family knew something was wrong. After
waiting three days to file a missing persons report, the Waterbury police
stepped in. They found Billy’s keys and wallet under the seat of his truck,
which was parked in his driveway. Other than that, William Smolinski Sr. said
the police weren’t much help. “We had to do everything ourselves,” he said. “We
organized our own search parties to look for our son.”
The family offered up DNA samples to the police. But after several weeks,
there was still no word. Janice went back to the police department and asked if
the DNA had been entered into federal databases like CODIS. CODIS, or Combined
DNA Index System, is a universal database that local, state and federal law
enforcement agencies can access to help link crimes or to identify remains
across the country. They were told it had not been entered, and in fact, were
told the department had not even heard of CODIS.
“My wife had to explain how to use the DNA to the police,” William Sr.
said. “Imagine that.”
The new act calls for the state’s Police Officer Standards and Training
Council to review the way they handle missing person cases and adopt and
implement a policy no later than January 1, 2008. Not a lot of
attention was paid to Billy’s case since he was a healthy 31-year-old male, but
the Smolinskis are hoping that all missing person cases will be handled the same
way, regardless of age or sex.
They also hope that law enforcement agencies across the country will have
specially trained officers who will be able to help with crisis situations like
a missing child.
“Every state needs someone on staff that can help,” Janice said.
Her thoughts were echoed by her husband who said there should be “one or
two” trained officers who can “take control of the situation” when needed.
Frustrated at the lack of knowledge the Waterbury Police Department had on
DNA, Janice Smolinski wants additional training for officers so they are more
knowledgeable on the subject.
“The most important part of this is to educate them on DNA,” she said. “We
are in 2007. It’s time to educate.”
U.S. Rep. Christopher Murphy, D-5th District and U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman
have both contacted her within the last couple of weeks, and she hopes that,
with their help, the legislation can be taken to a federal level.
In addition to the new legislation, Janice wants to put faces of missing
persons on playing cards that can be distributed among prisons.
The idea is similar to the “most wanted” playing cards that U.S. soldiers
were given in Iraq. In Polk County, Fla., unsolved homicide cards were
distributed to 2,500 inmates and fresh leads and tips came in almost immediately
for some of the cold cases.
Her husband said cards like these are a great idea and he thinks they would
work for missing persons as well. “Criminals like to talk and brag,” he said.
“They also might be interested in reward money that they can collect when they
get out of jail. Any little tip could help.”
Despite their efforts, there has been no word or sign of Billy Smolinski
since August 2004. The Smolinskis are all but certain that he was
Although their story is ongoing, Janice hopes changes to the system will
help other families whose worries might just be starting. “These changes aren’t
going to help Billy,” Janice said. “But maybe they will help another
For more information about Billy Smolinski Jr. and his story, visit
There has been some other recent activity in Billy's case: a tip led authorities to search for his body in Shelton. Police dogs picked up a scent, but nothing was found. You can read more on this story at and

If you know anything about the disappearance of William Smolinski, Jr., please call the New Haven FBI at (203) 777-6311. You can also email tips to or mail them to P.O. Box 123, Cheshire, CT 06410.

Guestbook for messages to Smolinski family:

Banner of Billy from his website.

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