Bill would give legal rights to family of missing person - - Columbia, South Carolina

Bill would give legal rights to family of missing person

Zachary Malinowski (Source: WMBF) Zachary Malinowski (Source: WMBF)

Lonnie Jordan's stepson went missing last August.

In the time since Zachary's disappearance, his family helped craft legislation that they say could help others also searching for a loved one.

"About five minutes from home, that was the last anybody had heard from him," Jordan said.

Since last summer, the disappearance of 19-year-old Zachary Malinowski has remained a mystery.

"You're looking for something you don't want to find, but at the same time you want an answer," Jordan said. "We knew something bad happened. His car was burned."

Months passed and still few answers surfaced. The aftermath of Zachary's disappearance also left financial frustrations for his family.

"We all have mortgage and rent to pay, we all have utility bills that have to be met," said Lee Caldwell with the SC Law Enforcement Victim Advocate Association. "Decisions have to go on, even though that person is gone."

Legislation introduced this month would allow a family member to take over the legal right of their missing loved one though conservatorship.

"It will give the more options in protecting the rights of that person that's missing and protecting them financially," Caldwell said.

Advocates said the bill likely won't impact missing person's investigations but it could provide a small relief for families struggling with the unexplained loss of a loved one.

"A missing person, most likely they're going to need health insurance or life insurance and because of privacy issues you don't have the information you need to pay those bills," Jordan said. "A lot of times there are payroll deductions."

Even though the bill may not pass this year, Zachary's family keeps their hope alive to try and find some resolution.

Victim advocates are also hoping to establish a state Silver Alert system, which would be similar to an Amber Alert, but only used when someone over the age of 19 goes missing.

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