Don’t know if you need to hear this today but this song always gives me a little extra encouragement to push forward…your life is important, and you deserve to have a life free from your stalker. Never give up!
Fight Song by Rachel Platten. The theme of this song is that no matter what situation you’ll always have a spark of fight in you to make it through.
I love it when I notice signs from Morgan…sometimes I have even had a chance to take a screen shot of them, when they “pop” up on my phone.
The numbers 11:11 or 1:11 come up often when I am thinking of her, or I am doing something I know she is happy about. It’s like she is saying, “Hello Mom” or “I love that you are making a fun memory with my niece & nephews.”
I can’t always take a screen shot, but I do sometimes. Interestingly, when I was looking through my saved photos, I started to see a pattern – 11:11 seems to come up multiple times during my birthday month in July and 1:11 seems to come up multiple times during Morgan’s birthday month in August…I have no idea why, but maybe she knows those months are a little harder for me to be without her.
What I would always like Morgan to know is that she is loved, she is missed and she is always remembered – and yes, I do tell her this daily.
Here are just a few samples.
Burning your dragonfly candle Morgan, and wishing you were here with us today…
Morgan here is a memory from your birthday years ago…we always light candles for you, in memory of all the light you brought into our lives.
In 2014, one of your friends wrote, “Happy Birthday to the most beautiful girl and spirit to walk this earth. We still miss you and all the light you brought into our lives, I still regret all the terrible things I said when we were not friends, and I thank you for the patience and forgiveness that you gave me after. To know you was a blessing and to loose you was the greatest tragedy I (we, all who met you) have ever faced. although I am not a believer in such things, I truly do hope you have found peace and are in a better place, I will believe for the sake of you alone. Wish You Were Here. I/we all still love you.” When I read this my heart melted…Morgan, you have such amazing friends, with such beautiful hearts.
Today marks another birthday for you, sweet angel.
Wishing you were here with us today. Every day without you in our lives has been hard, but days like this are even harder.
I wish I could say happy birthday and see your beautiful smile once more. I wish I could bake you a cake and give you a birthday gift, but today, the only gifts that will be in our home are the wonderful pictures and sweet memories you left behind – they are the many gifts you left for us.
Someone once said, “Not until you’ve lost a child do you know how it feels to be sad every single day…even when you experience joy.” This resonates with me because this has been how I feel every single day since you were taken from us all.
You are always the last thought I have before I go to sleep at night, you are the first thing I think of when I wake up every morning. No matter how busy my days are, and they usually are, I continually think about you, with eyes that tear up over happy thoughts, as well as the sad thoughts about your final months on this planet. I see the signs you send me, they always make me smile. I know you are still around me, and I hold onto the belief that I will see you again at the end of my job here on earth…until then, my little dragonfly baby, I will be loving you and missing you every single day.
Always – Morgan’s Mom
So very happy and honored to have been on the committee in the beginning to create this bill.
On August 3, 2022 H.R. 3359, the “Homicide Victims’ Families’ Rights Act of 2021,” which establishes a framework for immediate family members of a victim of murder to request a review of case files in a Federal cold case murder, was signed into law by the President.
This bill will give the families of homicide victims in federal cases the right to request a review of the case if the murder was committed more than three years ago, investigative leads have been exhausted, and no likely suspect has been identified.
The Homicide Victim’s Families Rights Act (HR 3359), would also require the federal government to notify family members of their rights and provide them with updates on any cold case review that is undertaken.
Politicians on both sides of the aisle, agreed that they can and must do better for the families of homicide victims seeking justice for their loved ones. This bill is a good start.
Thank you to Representatives Swalwell and McCaul, and Senators Cornyn, Durbin, Grassley, Coons, Cotton, Ossoff, Blackburn, Whitehouse, and Kennedy.
What does the bill say?
To provide for a system for reviewing the case files of cold case murders at the instance of certain persons, and for other purposes.
1. Short title
This Act may be cited as the
2. Case File Review
(a) In general
Homicide Victims’ Families’ Rights Act of 2021.
The head of an agency shall review the case file regarding a cold case murder upon written application by one designated person to determine if a full reinvestigation would result in either the identification of probative investigative leads or a likely perpetrator.
The review under subsection (a) shall include—
(1) an analysis of what investigative steps or follow-up steps may have been missed in the initial investigation;
(2) an assessment of whether witnesses should be interviewed or reinterviewed;
(3) an examination of physical evidence to see if all appropriate forensic testing and analysis was performed in the first instance or if additional testing might produce information relevant to the investigation; and
(4) an update of the case file using the most current investigative standards as of the date of the review to the extent it would help develop probative leads.
(c) Certification in lieu of review
In any case in which a written application for review has been received under this Act by the agency, review shall be unnecessary where the case does not satisfy the criteria for a cold case murder. In such a case, the head of the agency shall issue a written certification, with a copy provided to the designated person that made the application under subsection (a), stating that final review is not necessary because all probative investigative leads have been exhausted or that a likely perpetrator will not be identified.
A review required under subsection (a) shall not be conducted by a person who previously investigated the murder at issue.
The agency shall provide in writing to the applicant as soon as reasonably possible—
(1) confirmation of the agency’s receipt of the application under subsection (a); and
(2) notice of the applicant’s rights under this Act.
(f) Prohibition on multiple concurrent reviews
Only one case review shall be undertaken at any one time with respect to the same cold case murder victim.
(g) Time limit
Not later than 6 months after the receipt of the written application submitted pursuant to subsection (a), the agency shall conclude its case file review and reach a conclusion about whether or not a full reinvestigation under section 4 is warranted.
(1) In general
The agency may extend the time limit under subsection (g) once for a period of time not to exceed 6 months if the agency makes a finding that the number of case files to be reviewed make it impracticable to comply with such limit without unreasonably taking resources from other law enforcement activities.
(2) Actions Subsequent to Waiver
For cases for which the time limit in subsection (g) is extended, the agency shall provide notice and an explanation of its reasoning to one designated person who filed the written application pursuant to this section.
Each agency shall develop a written application to be used for designated persons to request a case file review under section 2.
4. Full reinvestigation
(a) In general
The agency shall conduct a full reinvestigation of the cold case murder at issue if the review of the case file required by section 2 concludes that a full reinvestigation of such cold case murder would result in probative investigative leads.
A full reinvestigation shall include analyzing all evidence regarding the cold case murder at issue for the purpose of developing probative investigative leads or a likely perpetrator.
A reinvestigation required under subsection (a) shall not be conducted by a person who previously investigated the murder at issue.
(d) Prohibition on Multiple Concurrent Reviews
Only one full reinvestigation shall be undertaken at any one time with respect to the same cold case murder victim.
5. Consultation and updates
(a) In general
The agency shall consult with the designated person who filed the written application pursuant to section 2 and provide him or her with periodic updates during the case file review and full reinvestigation.
(b) Explanation of Conclusion
The agency shall meet with the designated person and discuss the evidence to explain to the designated person who filed the written application pursuant to section 2 its decision whether or not to engage in the full reinvestigation provided for under section 4 at the conclusion of the case file review.
6. Subsequent reviews
(a) Case file review
If a review under subsection (a) case file regarding a cold case murder is conducted and a conclusion is reached not to conduct a full reinvestigation, no additional case file review shall be required to be undertaken under this Act with respect to that cold case murder for a period of five years, unless there is newly discovered, materially significant evidence. An agency may continue an investigation absent a designated person’s application.
(b) Full Reinvestigation
If a full reinvestigation of a cold case murder is completed and a suspect is not identified at its conclusion, no additional case file review or full reinvestigation shall be undertaken with regard to that cold case murder for a period of five years beginning on the date of the conclusion of the reinvestigation, unless there is newly discovered, materially significant evidence.
7. Data collection
(a) In general
Beginning on the date that is three years after the date of enactment of this Act, and annually thereafter, the Director of the National Institute of Justice shall publish statistics on the number of cold case murders.
(b) Manner of Publication
The statistics published pursuant to subsection (a) shall, at a minimum, be disaggregated by the circumstances of the cold case murder, including the classification of the offense, and by agency.
8. Procedures to promote compliance
Not later than one year after the date of enactment of this Act, the head of each agency shall promulgate regulations to enforce the right of a designated person to request a review under this Act and to ensure compliance by the agency with the obligations described in this Act.
The regulations promulgated under subsection (a) shall—
(1) designate an administrative authority within the agency to receive and investigate complaints relating to a review initiated under section 2 or a reinvestigation initiated under section 4;
(2) require a course of training for appropriate employees and officers within the agency regarding the procedures, responsibilities, and obligations required under this Act;
(3) contain disciplinary sanctions, which may include suspension or termination from employment, for employees of the agency who are shown to have willfully or wantonly failed to comply with this Act;
(4) provide a procedure for the resolution of complaints filed by the designated person concerning the agency’s handling of a cold case murder investigation or the case file evaluation; and
(5) provide that the head of the agency, or the designee thereof, shall be the final arbiter of the complaint, and that there shall be no judicial review of the final decision of the head of the agency by a complainant.
9. Withholding information
Nothing in this Act shall require an agency to provide information that would endanger the safety of any person, unreasonably impede an ongoing investigation, violate a court order, or violate legal obligations regarding privacy.
10. Multiple agencies
In the case that more than one agency conducted the initial investigation of a cold case murder, each agency shall coordinate their case file review or full reinvestigation such that there is only one joint case file review or full reinvestigation occurring at a time in compliance with section 2(f) or 4(d), as applicable.
This Act applies in the case of any cold case murder occurring on or after January 1, 1970.
In this Act:
(1) The term designated person means an immediate family member or someone similarly situated, as defined by the Attorney General.
(2) The term immediate family member means a parent, parent-in-law, grandparent, grandparent-in-law, sibling, spouse, child, or step-child of a murder victim.
(3) The term victim means a natural person who died as a result of a cold case murder.
(4) The term murder means any criminal offense under section 1111(a) of title 18, United States Code, or any offense the elements of which are substantially identical to such section.
(5) The term agency means a Federal law enforcement entity with jurisdiction to engage in the detection, investigation, or prosecution of a cold case murder.
(6) The term cold case murder means a murder—
(A) committed more than three years prior to the date of an application by a designated person under section 2(a);
(B) previously investigated by a Federal law enforcement entity;
(C) for which all probative investigative leads have been exhausted; and
(D) for which no likely perpetrator has been identified.
13. Annual report
(a) In general
Each agency shall submit an annual report to the Committees on the Judiciary of the House of Representatives and of the Senate describing actions taken and results achieved under this Act during the previous year.
(b) Report Described
The report described in subsection (a) shall include—
(1) the number of written applications filed with the agency pursuant to section 2(a);
(2) the number of extensions granted, and an explanation of reasons provided under section 2(h);
(3) the number of full reinvestigations initiated and closed pursuant to section 4; and
(4) statistics and individualized information on topics that include identified suspects, arrests, charges, and convictions for reviews under section 2 and reinvestigations under section 4.
This is not the end of the story – we hold out great hope that the scope of this law will expand in the future to include all cold case homicides or to be a guideline for states to adopt similar legislation.