The conviction of John Couey for kidnapping and murdering 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford was a bittersweet moment for me. Certainly, this piece of human garbage got what he deserved. My heart goes out to Jessica's family; they'll never have their beautiful little girl back, but at least they'll have some small measure of justice.
Yet, as the guilty verdict was read, I couldn't help but think that this didn't have to happen. This convicted sex offender should never have been in a position to break into the Lunsford's home, to steal their child, or to hold her captive for days while he sexually tormented her before he killed her. We had sex offender registries and other laws in place to protect our children from people like him.
But they just weren't tough enough: there were too many cracks for creeps like Couey to fall through.
Anything less would be failing our children.
That's why I joined with other child advocates, including Jessica's father, Mark, to fight for passage of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act. Congress listened, and President Bush signed the law named for my precious son during a ceremony in the Rose Garden last July 27th, the 25th anniversary of Adam's abduction and murder.
It strengthens the National Sex Offender Registry so that law enforcement officials and parents in every state have access to the same information about the location of registered sex offenders, making it harder for these predators to hide. It closes loopholes in the registry laws, and it makes failing to register a federal crime - a crime for which the U.S. Marshals Service will hunt you down.
Yet, even with the Adam Walsh Law on the books, I fear we'll soon hear about another John Couey, or another Joseph Duncan. He's about to go on trial for kidnapping 9-year-old Dylan and 10-year-old Shasta Groene in Idaho, and then killing Dylan. He's already serving life in prison for murdering three members of their family. He, too, was an unregistered sex offender running under the law's radar.
Why do I worry? Because the Adam Walsh Law gives states three years before they have to comply with its provisions. Three years for the leaky patchwork of state registry laws to remain in effect laws that allow an estimated 100,000 sex offenders to roam around the country without anyone knowing where they are.
Even worse, many top law enforcement officials tell me three years isn't enough for them to come up to speed on the new law. They complain that while Congress may have passed it, they didn't provide any money for the states to implement it. Come on. This is the country that sent a man to the moon, the nation that put a space station into orbit. We implemented that, but we can't keep track of sex offenders?
In 20 years on America's Most Wanted, I've seen law enforcement at its best. But I've also seen horrible mistakes that have cost lives. I'm the number one supporter of law enforcement, and I know those mistakes were made because of lack of training, lack of resources and lack of money. We can't let that happen with the Adam Walsh Law. Congress must fund it NOW, and every state must implement it as quickly as possible.
»Let's Call On Congress To Fund The Adam Walsh Act