Parents of Kelsey Smith speak in Lafayette County as part of National Crime Victims Rights Week

Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Greg Smith addresses the crowd at the National Crime Victims Rights Week pancake breakfast Thursday.(Lisa Handke)

National Crime Victims Rights Week was observed last week in Lafayette County with a pancake and sausage breakfast Thursday at the Carriage House in Lexington.

The featured guest speakers were Greg and Missey Smith, the parents of Kelsey Smith, an Overland Park teenager who was abducted and murdered in 2007.

The breakfast drew about 200 law enforcement personnel from the Missouri Highway Patrol, the Lafayette County Sheriff's Department, and the Higginsville, Lexington and Odessa police departments, as well as the Lafayette County Associated Judges Parole and Probation officers.

Kelli Ritchie, Lafayette County Prosecutor, presided over the event. Presiding Commissioner Jim Strodtman read a proclamation recognizing the National Victims Rights Week in Lafayette County during the week of April 18-24.

Strodtman said in part, "More than 21 million Americans suffer the indignity of crime each year and many experience emotional, physical, psychological and financial hardship as a result of that crime. A just nation acknowledges crime's impact on individuals, families, and com- munities and ensures that victims are treated with fairness, dignity and respect as they interact with the criminal justice system."

The Smiths gave a moving account of the abduction of their 18-year-old daughter, Kelsey, the search to find her, and the trial and conviction of her murderer. They also spoke about the Kelsey Smith Foundation they created to spread awareness of teen homicide in the U.S. and the Kelsey Smith Act they are advocating that would affect cellular phone companies' compliance with law enforcement.

Greg Smith, who has served as a police officer for 18 years, reported that more than 4,000 young people aged 17-24 are murdered each year in the U.S.

He likened the young-adult homicide rate to a war, saying, "Our nation expresses concern about the 5,000 servicemen killed in Iraq since we put troops there in 2001, and rightly so. But little is said about the 30,000 teenagers and young adults who have been abducted, assaulted and murdered right here in the United States in that same period of time."

Missey Smith told the story of Kelsey's abduction, which occurred in broad daylight outside a Target store in Overland Park on June 6, 2007, in just a 16-second time frame. She then discussed with the law enforcement officials in attendance what she thought went well in the search for Kelsey and investigation of her abduction, as well as what she thought did not go well, from a victim's perspective.

After Kelsey's murderer was sentenced to life in prison without parole or the right to appeal, the Smiths began campaigning for the Kelsey Smith Act, which would require wireless telecommunications companies to comply with law enforcement subpoenas for cell phone information in situations of suspected emergency or possible death of the contract holder.

The Smiths were discouraged when the Verizon Wireless corporation did not comply with police subpoenas requesting usage records and the location of Kelsey's cell phone. The company said some wording was wrong in the subpoena, so they were not legally required to comply with it. When the company finally gave the information to the police, Kelsey's body was found within 45 minutes. That was three-and-a-half days after her disappearance.

The Kelsey Smith Act has been signed into law in Kansas and Nebraska, and the state of Minnesota will likely pass the initiative soon, the Smiths reported. The act is being considered in Missouri and may pass into law by the end of the year.

Greg Smith said this act would be beneficial to all cases of missing persons because cell phone companies have record of which towers a phone is in closest range, giving police a narrower search range.

The Smiths have also established a Kelsey Smith Foundation to speak out against teen homicide and promote safety procedures and safe habits in high schools and colleges across the nation. The couple said because Kelsey always let them know where she was going, when she was coming home and when her plans or location changed, they were able to start searching for her immediately when she did not come home on time and failed to answer her cell phone after her abduction.

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