Governor Crist Joins Law Enforcement, Families to Remember Missing Children

TALLAHASSEE - Governor Charlie Crist today joined Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) Commissioner Gerald Bailey and families, educators, law enforcement personnel and public officials to remember Florida's missing children and to recognize the state's child protection efforts. During the 2008 Florida Missing Children's Day ceremony, the Governor signed the 'Jennifer Kesse and Tiffany Sessions Missing Persons Act,' legislation that bolsters the state's ability to locate endangered missing adults.

"We must do all we can to protect Florida's most vulnerable citizens," said Governor Crist. "Florida's missing children and adults are forever on our minds and in our prayers, and we must give law enforcement the tools they need to locate these citizens. Today, especially, we pause to think of the missing and to remember those who did not make it home safely."

Last year, law enforcement agencies throughout Florida received approximately 50,940 reports of missing children. So far this year, Amber Alerts have helped officers rescue nine missing children. The annual Missing Children's Day ceremony is an opportunity to honor citizens, canine training teams, and law enforcement officers from around the state for their exemplary efforts in these missing children investigations.

"Today, we honor the people who have worked tirelessly to protect our state's children," FDLE Commissioner Gerald Bailey said. "And we recommit ourselves to working together to do everything we can to protect Florida's families and keep them safe."

The Florida Legislature this year passed Senate Bill 502, the 'Jennifer Kesse and Tiffany Sessions Missing Persons Act.' Governor Crist today ceremonially signed the bill, which broadens the authority of FDLE's Missing Endangered Persons Information Clearinghouse to provide assistance on investigations involving missing adults younger than 26 and missing adults age 26 and older who are suspected by law enforcement to be in danger.

In addition, the Act requires that local law enforcement authorities transmit missing child and adult reports to the state and federal criminal databases within two hours of receiving the report. The local law enforcement agency investigating the case must also attempt to obtain a DNA sample if the child or adult has been missing for more than 90 days. These DNA profiles will be analyzed and uploaded into the FBI's National DNA Index System and continuously searched against unidentified human remains.

Hundreds of children from surrounding counties participated in today's events, which included fingerprinting and photographing for the Clearinghouse, and a safety presentation on abduction prevention. Various law enforcement agencies, victim assistance groups and non-profit children's organizations were on hand with displays during the Missing Children's Day event. Special recognition was given to the following recipients of the 2008 Florida Missing Children Awards:

* Commissioner's Award: Dr. Barry Lipton of Largo, Fla
* Citizen of the Year: Tracy Bridges of Homestead, Fla.
* Trailing Team of the Year: Sgt. Scott Marceill, Sgt. Tommy Brock, Officer Hugh Kopp, and K-9 Leonard (Florida Department of Corrections)

* Statewide Essay Contest Winner: Samantha Smith of Babson Park, Fla. (Dale R. Fair Babson Park Elementary School)

* Local Law Enforcement Officer of the Year: Detective John Madsen (Gainesville Police Department)
* Law Enforcement Task Force/Team of the Year: Seminole County Alert Crew, Seminole County Communications Center, Sanford Police Department, Lake Mary Police Department, Central Florida Regional Hospital, and Florida Department of Law Enforcement

* State/Federal Law Enforcement Officer of the Year: Staff Sgt. Esther Werstler (United States Air Force, Eglin AFB)

* School Bus Operator of the Year: Ms. Billie Joe Kaser (Escambia County School District)
* John and Reve Walsh Award: Drew and Joyce Kesse, Hilary Sessions
* Evelyn Williams Award: Diane Clark

FDLE invites the public to sign up for receive e-mail alerts containing information on missing and abducted children. Citizens and businesses can sign up to receive Missing Child Alerts and Amber Alerts via personal computer, cell phone and/or text message by visiting For more information, or to view photos of missing children, please visit or contact the FDLE Missing Endangered Persons Clearinghouse at 1-888-FL MISSING (1-888-356-4774).

About the Missing Endangered Persons Information Clearinghouse

The Missing Endangered Persons Information Clearinghouse, formerly called the Missing Children Information Clearinghouse, will serve as Florida's central repository for the collection and dissemination of information regarding missing children and adults. The Clearinghouse will help law enforcement agencies, public and private organizations and citizens in locating those who are reported missing. In 2007, FDLE's Clearinghouse directly assisted in the recovery of 141 missing children.

For more information, contact:

Governor's Press Office, (850) 488-5394

Heather Smith or Kristen Perezluha
FDLE Public Information Office
(850) 410-7001