It's been five years now since Brandy Hanna disappeared, and to this day her family has no idea what happened.

In fact, they know little more than they did in those first few terrifying days, when they found her money, her clothes -- all of her belongings -- still locked in her North Charleston apartment. They still remember those desperate hours when they called her cell phone repeatedly, only to be routed straight to voice mail.

Brandy's trail went cold long ago and, in that respect, she shares a sad kinship with many missing adults.

You see, when a grown-up disappears, there is no immediate manhunt, no automatic investigation, no Amber Alert. Adults have the right to check out and not contact anyone.

For that reason, police don't immediately jump up and divert resources to look for people who simply haven't contacted friends or family -- even when the family says they are certain that their loved one is not simply on walkabout.

And that's a problem. In missingpersons cases, most of them are either solved in the first hours or they aren't solved at all.

For the past few months, state Rep. David Mack has been trying to change all that.

Faster response

Mack is developing "Brandy's Law," and it is a model of how the legislative process should work.

The veteran North Charleston lawmaker heard about the plight of Hanna's mother, Donna Parent, and got in touch with her. He sat and listened to her frustrations, her critique of how police handled the case, and quickly came to empathize with the agony Parent suffers through every day: the agony of not knowing.

"For every family," Mack says, "it is the ultimate nightmare."

And he saw an area of law enforcement that could be better.

Mack enlisted the aid of the State Law Enforcement Division to help him write a law that would get more law enforcement involved earlier when an adult is missing. The idea is to find a way to coordinate with more police agencies and, most importantly, to do it more quickly. Before the trail goes cold.

SLED has been enthusiastic about solving this problem, Mack says, and he hopes to have a bill ready to go when the Legislature goes back into session in January. He has already enlisted the support of key lawmakers, including the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.

Mack has a real chance of changing the way police handle missing-persons cases.

Better results?

For five years now, Donna Parent has spent a good part of each day wondering what happened to her daughter. Every new tip has led nowhere, and the police have found nothing. They call it one of the most baffling cases they've ever seen.

Parent hasn't lost faith that she will one day find the answer -- but that faith sure has been tested.

And then someone like Mack comes along. Parent hopes that Brandy's law will save other parents from the hell that she has been through for these five years. And just maybe, one day, her faith will be rewarded.

Right now, Mack says SLED is talking about reopening Brandy's case.