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Law changes for missing young adults

ST. PAUL -- Annette and Brian Swanson's son has been missing for almost a year, but on Thursday they paused from their search to watch a ceremony designed to help other Minnesotans.

The couple and their daughter, Jamine, unsuccessfully held back tears as Gov. Tim Pawlenty signed a bill forcing law enforcement agencies to quickly act on reports of missing young adults.

"This is a bittersweet moment for us," Annette Swanson said. "We want to make a difference for the people."

The new law requires law enforcement agencies to take reports about missing young adults and then launch searches quicker than under the old law, which has led to inconsistent policies among law enforcement agencies.

Missing juvenile investigations usually start quickly, but those involving young adults have been handled inconsistently because state law allowed each law enforcement agency to make its own decisions in adult cases.

As the bill went through the legislative committee process, the Swanson's traveled from their southwest Minnesota home to testify for it.

David and Linda Francis of Stillwater, accompanied by several family members, also were at the bill signing after working to pass the bill. Their son, Jon, was missing in Idaho's mountains before his body was found more than a year later.

Two other parents who also testified on behalf of the bill were not in the Capitol Thursday; they were preparing to bury their son.

Sally and Dale Zamlen told a House committee a few days after their son, Dan, disappeared in St. Paul in early April that police refused to quickly start an investigation. His body was found Friday in the Mississippi River.

A memorial service was held Thursday at St. Thomas University in St. Paul, where Zamlen was a student. His funeral is planned for Saturday in his hometown of Eveleth.

Swanson, Francis and Zamlen are three of many young Minnesotans who have disappeared in recent years.

Tim O'Malley, Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension superintendent, said the law enforcement officers across the state now will treat missing persons cases consistently. Thousands of people go missing in Minnesota every year, he said.

David Francis, who heads a foundation in his son's name, said a committee will begin meeting later this month to draw up guidelines to govern missing persons investigations. And training for law enforcement officers will follow.

Davis works for Forum Communications Co., which owns the Daily Globe.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.