The following is an editorial by John WalshPART II
Part II of a Two Part Series
View Part I
There have been several high-profile cases recently where known sex offenders out on parole have been charged with new and horrific crimes against children. I really feel that a society can be judged by how well it looks after and protects its most vulnerable members. Based on these recent cases, we're doing a lousy job.
The only way to really guarantee the safety of our children is to give all child sex offenders life sentences without parole. Although I personally think this is exactly what they deserve, I know it's not realistic. But we need a solution that addresses the fundamental problem. There is no recognized cure for sex offenders' attraction to children -- yet most sex offenders serve limited sentences, and then return to the community.
Recent cases have shined a spotlight -- right through some of the holes in our current laws. In each of these cases, parents did not know that their child was exposed to a convicted child sexual offender. In two cases, the unsuspecting parents even welcomed the sexual offender into the family's home.
The Case of Frederick Fretz
Fretz ingratiated himself to the father of 11-year-old Adam Kirkirt and moved in with the father and son. On January 18, 2005 police say Fretz abducted Adam from his home in Marion County, Florida. Adam was safely recovered three days later in Georgia.
- 1990s - Convicted in Pennsylvania of sexually abusing a 10-year-old boy
- After prison - moved to Arizona and registered as sex offender
- 2004 - Moved to Florida
- Did not register as a sex offender
- Spring 2004 - Obtained a Florida driver's license - failure to register in Florida was not discovered
- Fall 2004 - Arrested for marijuana possession and domestic battery
- Failure to register in Florida was not discovered
- January 18, 2005 - Charged with abducting 11-year-old Adam Kirkirt
The Case of John Couey
Couey moved in to the home of his half-sister in Homosassa, Fla. some time in the fall or winter of 2004. As a registered sex offender he was supposed to update his record to reflect his new address, but he did not. On February 24, 2005, deputies say Couey abducted his neighbor, nine-year-old Jessica Lunsford, and sexually assaulted and murdered her.
- 1977-1991 - Arrested at least 14 times for charges such as burglary, larceny, indecent exposure and at least 2 DUIs -escaped from jail and broke parole numerous times
- April 1991 - Arrested for a lewd and lascivious act on a child
- 1995-2004 - Arrested at least nine times for charges such as fraud, DUI, larceny, drug possession and several violations of parole and probation
- July 7, 2004 - Couey verified his address at Grover Cleveland Blvd in Homosassa, Fla. with the sex offender registry
- Fall-Winter 2004 - Couey left the home in which he was supposed to be living and moved into his half-sister's home about 5 miles away
- December 2, 2004 - Arrest warrant issued for Couey because he did not report for probation
- Law enforcement was not informed that a child sexual offender had absconded
The Case of Roger Paul Bentley
Bentley was a family friend of Trena Gage, the mother of 10-year-old Jetseta Gage. Bentley's brother, James, is the former boyfriend of Trena Gage who is currently facing charges of sexually assaulting Jetseta over a period of three years.
On March 24, 2005, police say Roger Paul Bentley took Jetseta from her northwest Cedar Rapids, Iowa home to an abandoned mobile home in nearby Johnson County, where he sexually assaulted and asphyxiated her.
- 1994 - Convicted in Iowa of lascivious acts with a 7-year-old child in Benton County. He was sentenced to five years in prison and served two.
- 1999 - Convicted of failing to update the state's sex-offender registry with his new address. However, it was switched to an acquittal when the Iowa Supreme Court issued a ruling that the state's laws did not allow the penalizing of offenders for registration infractions.
- 2004 - 2005 - Bentley's neighbors in Brandon, Iowa - including the mayor, whose home was a block away from Bentley's had no idea a sex offender lived in town.
- March 24, 2005 - Charged with abducting, assaulting, and murdering 10-year-old Jetseta Gage
I've just laid out for you three tragic cases where scum slipped through the system. The time is now for America to wake up. Legislators must revamp our current laws; we have got to do a better job of keeping track of child sexual offenders, and making certain that familes and children are armed with the information they need to protect themselves.
Here are some of the problems, and some of solutions we must implement:
Some types of child sex offenders aren't covered
Sometimes registration doesn't even occur
- "possession of child pornography" must be a registrable offense
- "use of Internet to facilitate or commit" must be a registrable offense
- "conviction in foreign country" must be a registrable offense
Getting the word out
- initial registration must occur before release from prison
- information required upon initial registration must be standardized (some states do not collect enough information to adequately enforce the law)
- photographs and fingerprints must be taken at initial registration
- state officials must notify officials in another state upon notice of offender moving into that state
Getting rid of loopholes
- active notification must become the standard for each state.
- create standard requirements for active notification -- the when and how of releasing information to communities about child sex offenders
- there must be special communication efforts aimed at informing child-serving organizations and residents within specified radius of offender's home and work addresses for sexually violent child predators
- standardize the frequency and methods by which child sex offenders must verify their registration - some states only require offenders to return a postcard mailed annually
- require an annual photograph during registry period
- create a maximum time frame in which an offender must notify law enforcement of any change in home or employment address
- require child sex offenders to notify law enforcement in both states of change of address and comply with registration requirements in new state of residence
- create a standard state felony penalty for each instance of noncompliance and make it mandatory to issue a warrant for even the first instance of non-compliance
- create a requirement that noncompliance by a child sex offender be grounds for immediate issuance of arrest warrant
- noncompliance must be classified as ongoing offense for purpose of statute of limitations on crimes
- registry information, including photograph and fingerprint classifications must be sent to the FBI so that offenders cannot slip through by moving from state to state
These are just some of the changes that need to be made. Contact your representative today and let them know that you want to see the laws regarding child sexual offenders revamped.