Sanders’ missing persons bill needs gov’s signature

By Sadef Ali Kully

Days after “Second Avenue Singer” Garry Russo, 54, a Howard Beach resident, was found hanging from a tree after disappearing for a month, community activists and elected officials Monday called on Gov. Andrew Cuomo outside his Manhattan office to sign the LaMont Dottin’s Law, which would require police agencies to file a report after an adult is reported missing.

State Sen. James Sanders Jr. (D-Rochdale Village), who introduced the bill, was joined by Dr. Arnita Fowler, whose son the bill is named for, and state Assemblyman Charles Barron (D-Brooklyn) who co-sponsored the bill in the Assembly.

It passed the Legislature unanimously in June for the first time since the bill had been proposed in 2002.

LaMont Dottin’s Law would mandate that police agencies to file an electronic report with the National Crime Information Center within 24 hours of being notified that a person between the ages of 21 and 64 had disappeared.

The current state law governing missing persons says an individual has to be classified as a child or vulnerable senior for such action to be taken.

LaMont Dottin was 19 years old when he disappeared from his St. Albans home on Oct. 16, 1995. Six days later his body was found floating in the East Hudson River and was subsequently buried in a pauper’s grave in Potter’s Field on Hart Island.

In 1999, Fowler discovered her son had been identified by the FBI through dental records, which was never reported to NYPD’s Missing Person Unit. He was buried in Potter’s Field without Fowler’s knowledge.

She called police for her weekly follow up when the mistake was revealed.

It took Fowler over a year to have her son’s body exhumed from Hart Island and bring it home for a proper funeral and burial.

A year later, the family established The LaMont Dottin Foundation to serve as an information clearing house committed to assisting other families in their search for missing loved ones.

“I am a Marine Corps veteran, and we have a saying that we leave nobody behind on the battlefield,” Sanders said. “I think it’s time for our governor to be a good Marine. I think it’s time that he understands that we will leave nobody behind. We need to let everybody know that New York state will utilize every agency and turn over every stone to find the missing.”

He added, “No one should have to experience the pain that LaMont Dottin’s family experienced.”

Reach Reporter Sadef Ali Kully by e-mail at skull[email protected]local.com or by phone at (718) 260–4546.

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