SULLIVAN COUNTY, Tenn. (WJHL)- State lawmakers still hope Evelyn Boswell’s short life will have a long legacy through a law named in her honor. Meanwhile, child advocates also say her situation highlights the need for people to report child abuse.
The Sullivan County toddler captured national attention and the hearts of community members when an AMBER Alert was issued for her back in February. Evelyn’s body was ultimately found March 6th on a family member’s property. Her 19-year-old mother, Megan Boswell, was indicted on 19 charges on Wednesday. This included two counts of felony murder.
As charges for Evelyn Boswell’s death were announced for the first time, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Director David Rausch had a message for the public.
“We would like to encourage anyone who suspects that a child is being abused to immediately report it. You can report it to your local law enforcement agency or call the Tennessee Child Abuse Hotline at 1-877-237-0004,” said Rausch.
On Thursday, Gena Frye, director of the Children’s Advocacy Center of Sullivan County, echoed the need to report child abuse.
“I think the best thing that could ever happen out of this tragedy is that we educate ourselves and protect our children, and listen to them,” said Frye.
The Children’s Advocacy Center estimates that since the COVID-19 pandemic began shutting down schools and churches in March, reports of child abuse in Sullivan County dropped 60% and have only started to rise again recently. Fewer reports do not mean abuse is happening less. Frye pointed out reporting abuse is the law.
“Tennessee is a mandatory reporting state. And if you suspect a child is being harmed, then it’s your duty to report it,” she said.
Since Evelyn’s case started attracting attention in March, local lawmakers have tried to advance legislation named in her honor. The ‘Evelyn’s Law’ bill would increase penalties against parents or guardians who don’t report their children missing to law enforcement within 48 hours. If they don’t – it would be a Class A misdemeanor. If harm or death came to that child, it would be a Class C felony, which can mean three to 15 years in prison.
“It was inspired by Evelyn and what happened to her,” said Representative Bud Hulsey.
Hulsey is one of the House bill’s co-sponsors. Evelyn’s Law did pass in the House, but stalled this summer in a Senate committee.
News Channel 11 reached out to the bill’s Senate sponsor, Senator Dawn White, for further information on the bill’s status on Thursday, and did not hear back.
Representative Timothy Hill, the bill’s primary sponsor, will not be returning to the state legislature next term. Both Hulsey and another co-sponsor, Representative John Crawford, told News Channel 11 the legislation is needed in Tennessee.
Hulsey and Crawford said if re-elected once their current terms end in November, they’ll re-introduce Evelyn’s Law in the House in January.
“John Crawford and I plan on running that again this next session. So we’re not going to give up on it. We’ll go ahead and run it again,” said Hulsey.
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