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Levon’s Law proposed in Oneida County, aims for a felony charge when missing children reports are delayed

Anger over the death of 9-month old Levon Wameling earlier this year has sparked new efforts to punish parents, legal guardians, or caretakers who don't report missing children quickly.
New Hartford (WSYR-TV) - Anger over the death of 9-month old Levon Wameling earlier this year has sparked new efforts to punish parents, legal guardians, or caretakers who don't report missing children quickly.

The night Levon disappeared, no one searched for him because his father Jevon Wameling didn't tell authorities for two weeks.

Initially he claimed the boy was taken from his porch after he walked away for a few minutes. Later, the story changed, but Jevon remained free as searchers spent months looking for his son.

The case prompted Oneida County Legislator David Gordon to draft Levon's Law, to charge guardians with a class C Felony, punishable by 7-15 years behind bars.

Under the proposed guidelines:
  • Children under the age of four, would have to be reported missing within an hour.
  • Children between 5 and 8 years old, would need to be reported missing after three hours.
  • Children between 9 and 15 years old would need to be reported missing after 12 hours.
"It is actually pretty sad that we have to pass a law that should just be human nature or parental instinct,” Oneida County Legislator David Gordon said.

Jevon was arrested on a separate burglary charge weeks after the search for his son began. Once he was in custody, police determined where they could find the child's body through interviews. Then, Wameling pleaded guilty to Manslaughter in connection with Levon's death.

"If you had that law in place, he would have been detained, so he couldn't change his story.” Gordon explained. “He may have been more apt to confess right from the beginning because he knew what he was charged with and what was pending."

With emotions still high in the months after Levon’s death, passing a law in his name could still be an uphill battle. For months a similar proposal has stalled in the State Legislature, facing challenging legal questions.

Under Gordon's proposal, a parent who doesn't report a 15 year old missing within 12 hours could be charged with a felony and face up to 15 years behind bars, even if the teen is found safe. Gordon says he's relying on the legal system to use good judgment with each case.

"I'm hoping if we put this law forward, the state will follow suit,” Gordon said.

Gordon will review the proposal with an attorney on Tuesday. The legislature chairman has 30 days to either have a committee review the proposal or not.

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