Las Vegas cab driver Keith Goldberg vanished in winter 2012, sparking a massive search-and-rescue operation in the Nevada desert.
After a few days, the search was called off and he was presumed dead. As time passed, his family received information he had been murdered and his remains were dumped in the Lake Mead Recreation Area desert, land controlled by the National Park Service.
A private group, Red Rock Search and Rescue, offered its services to Goldberg's family, but wasn't allowed to enter the parkland and find the body.
What came next was a year-long process of navigating government bureaucracy, applying for a permit and raising money to buy a $1 million insurance policy for the searchers.
"It was really hard for my mom," said Jodi Goldberg, Keith Goldberg's sister. "We couldn't have a memorial service, we couldn't do anything. She wouldn't do it without his remains. It put us on hold and it was really hard."
Eventually, after the family and Red Rock had gotten through the red tape, the searchers found him within two hours.
Goldberg's remains were difficult to identify, and the coroner initially thought he was a dead coyote, his sister said. With all that time passed, the defendants in the case were able to destroy evidence and cover their tracks.
Christopher and Georgene Ross admitted to killing Goldberg, but the case was so weak due to lack of evidence they were able to plead to manslaughter. Nevada prison records show Georgene Ross was sentenced to just two to six years with credit for time served. Christopher Ross could be eligible for parole next year, but could face up to 15 years in prison.
"I have more anger now because of the destruction of evidence," Jodi Goldberg said. "It was unfortunate that all of this red tape denied us closure ... but it also created an issue where there was a lack of evidence."
A bill making its way through the Senate might ensure families like the Goldbergs won't have to endure a similar ordeal in finding a deceased loved one on federal lands.
Nevada Republicans Rep. Joe Heck and Sen. Dean Heller are working on the Good Samaritan Search and Recovery Act of 2015. The bill would require the departments of Interior and Agriculture to establish processes to give eligible organizations and individuals a decision within 48 hours on a permit to access public lands.
The permits would be issued only in cases when it's believed the missing person or people are presumed dead. Search companies would have to waive federal liability for any injuries suffered during a search.
The bill, which passed the House unanimously in April and made it through committee to the Senate floor in late November, also would require the Interior and Agriculture departments to develop partnerships with search-and-recovery companies to coordinate missions to recover bodies on federal lands.
Heck was struck by the Goldbergs' story.
"It just seemed ridiculous that you have a group of trained and equipped volunteers that want to help a family get closure on something as devastating ... as the murder of a loved one ... and you have government bureaucracy saying, 'No, we can't let you in because you don't have the right insurance policy,'" Heck said.
He said the experience of the Goldbergs and the family of Air Force Staff Sgt. Antonio Tucker, who drowned in Lake Mead in January 2012 and wasn't removed from the lake for a year, is unnecessary. Tucker's family had to hire a private dive team.
"This issue itself is, I think, a general indictment of government bureaucracy at its best," Heck said.
"If this is how it is when it's this simple, you can only imagine how much more difficult it is for more complicated issues," he added.
It's the second time the legislation has been proposed. It passed the House but died in the Senate during the previous Congress, and a Senate companion bill died in committee.
"Democrats and Republicans from both chambers agree no more families should have to experience what the Goldberg and Tucker families had to endure. The time has passed for this legislation to make its way to the president's desk, and I will continue to work with Congressman Heck to make that happen," Heller said.
According to federal data, 185 people died on National Park Service lands in 2013, the most recent statistics available. The leading cause of death was drowning, with 62 deaths, and second was falls or slips, with 28 deaths. From 2007-12, between 121-155 people died annually on National Park Service lands.
Interior spokeswoman Jessica Kershaw said recommendations proposed by the department were taken into account in the bill, such as removing a certification requirement for eligible groups, clarifying that a Good Samaritan search-and-recovery is done only by eligible groups and that the government is released from liability.
"These improvements helped make the bill stronger, and we look forward to continuing to refine it as it works its way through the Senate process," she said.
But the removal of a certification requirement is one of the measures keeping the legislation from being perfect, according to Chris Boyer, executive director and chief operating officer at the National Association for Search and Rescue.
The eligibility requirement states groups seeking to do searches must be nonprofit organizations and adults. That could mean anything from a well-trained group such as those who found the bodies of Goldberg and Tucker to people willing to take the risk and join together to form a nonprofit organization.
"Their intent here is very good. As a first cut, it's probably an 80-20 solution," Boyer said. "They got 80 percent of it right, let's get it on the books and get moving, and then we can tune it up later."
He said families will be operating from an emotional place and might be willing to spend money for an unqualified nonprofit organization to go into dangerous situations that federal employees might deem too risky to search.
"Now you're doing risk management based on an emotional-based decision, not on the danger that's involved," Boyer said.