Zeb Hughes Law approved by Gov. Tate Reeves

Published 9:18 am Tuesday, April 30, 2024

JACKSON — Gov. Tate Reeves approved House Bill 1068 thus making Zeb Hughes Law on April 25, the bill becomes law on July 1 officially. It was not listed in the Mississippi legislature’s daily action reports for April 25 but the action is shown in the bill’s history

Zeb Hughes is one of two local duck hunters who went missing on the Mississippi River near Vicksburg on December 3, 2020. Zeb was from Wesson and the other missing hunter is Gunner Palmer of Hazlehurst. 

They had set out to scout for ducks on the Mississippi River but never made it back home. Their boat and some hunting equipment was found in the search efforts after their disappearance. Zeb’s dog Kye died in the accident on the Mississippi River as well. His other dog Delta is a comfort for his mother Sharon Hughes. 

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Sharon said there are not enough words to express her “eternal gratitude,” to Sen. Jason Barrett and Rep. Becky Currie for working so hard to get the bill passed. It was not easy by any means. 

“I am still in shock that this passed during the first session that it was presented. It has been a roller coaster of emotions since day one of being told by the Attorney General’s office that I could obtain a death certificate for my son followed by 9 months of waiting then to be told that, by law, it could not be issued – which was correct,” Sharon said. “That process began in May of 2022 and ended in April of 2023. From then on, preparations were made by Rep. Currie for the presentation to the legislature.”

Wild legislative ride

Barrett introduced an amendment to House Bill 1068 to include the Zeb Hughes Law after its original bill died in a senate committee. Mississippi’s House voted 115-0 to pass the bill on April 17.

Barrett’s amendment came after Currie’s House Bill 80 died in the senate Judiciary A committee without a vote. His amendment would allow someone to petition a court of competent jurisdiction and prove by clear and convincing evidence that their loved one was in fact deceased and could approve a death certificate accordingly. Under the amendment, the petition to the court for a death certificate could not be considered until 2 years after the catastrophic event. 

Throughout the legislative roller coaster, Sharon said she maintained her faith in God’s plan.

“I trusted God on the river bank on the worst night of my life because our children are His children first,” Sharon said. “I still trust his will for my daughter and granddaughter and I trusted his will for this change of law. This is a perfect example of no man being able to keep God’s will from being done.”

She said she is comforted in knowing she fought for the bill and how it will bring a piece of closure for her but also Gunner’s parents and others who may be in the same situation in the future.

The next step

Her next goal is to help others learn about the law change. The Daily Leader’s readers and the general public can help by sharing the news across the state.

“I know there are many families waiting for that 7 year mark that no longer have to wait. I just don’t know who they are,” Sharon said. “I will always be open to those families reaching out to me if they have questions or need encouragement or prayer. I am very proud to have been able to honor Zeb and Gunner by fighting for this change and am grateful to the House and Senate for appropriately addressing such a crucially important issue. Zeb fought for what he believed in. He fought for what matters. He fought for others. I have done the same and now I pray our community and state will help spread the word for those who need this information.”