Parents, who have suffered the pain, anguish of losing a child deals with this torment constantly. You don’t ever get over the loss, and parts of you may never accept it, but you always find ways to cope with it the best you can. I’m not saying it’s easy, because it’s not. In fact, it may end up being the toughest thing you’ll ever endure.
One such parent that suffered this horrible anguish was Mark Lunsford. His daughter, Jessica Lunsford a 9-year-old girl been sexually abused, kidnapped, and buried alive in Florida.
On March 7, 2007, John Couey was found guilty of all charges in relation to Lunsford’s death, including first degree murder, kidnapping, burglary with assault or battery upon any person, and capital sexual battery. The jury deliberated for four hours, tasked with recommending either life in prison without parole or the death penalty, the only two possible sentences available under Florida law.
A week later, after about one hour and 15 minutes of deliberation, a jury recommended John Couey be put to death.
On August 11, 2007, a jury overseeing the Lunsford case voted 10-2 that John Couey be eligible for the death sentence. Defense for John Couey argued that he had suffered from a lifetime of emotional abuse and had a below normal IQ, which would enable him to avoid a death sentence under a 2002 Supreme Court ruling prohibiting execution of mentally handicapped people.
However, the most credible intelligence test rated John Couey’s IQ at 78, above the standard accepted level of mental retardation, which is 70. The testing made it clear that John Couey was capable and knew what he was doing. This was a real set back to John Covey’s defense.
On September 30, 2009 at 11:15 a.m. EST, John Couey died at Jacksonville Memorial Hospital after complications from anal cancer, before sentence of the court could be carried out.
Once John Couey was not required to wear GPS tracking went for his next victim, Jessica Lunsford. This could have been your daughter, just imagine the anguish any parent would have to live with, if this happened to them.
Jessica Lunsford came from Gaston County, North Carolina before moving to Florida. In the loving memory of Mark Lunsford’s daughter Jessica, a law introduced to enforce stricter laws about sex offenders called, “Jessica’s Law.”
In 2005, Florida legislator’s designed law to protect potential victims and cut a sexual offender’s ability to re-offend. Jessica Lunsford Act introduced at the federal level in 2005 but was never enacted into law by Congress.
The name is also used by the media to appoint all legislation and potential legislation in other states modeled after the Florida law. Forty-Four states have introduced such legislation since Florida’s law passed.
The Jessica Lunsford Act aka. Jessica’s Law:
1.) Increase the penalty for lewd and lascivious molestation of a child to life in prison or a split sentence of a mandatory least 25-year prison term, followed by lifetime supervision with electronic monitoring.
2.) Increase, from 20 to 30 years, the period before a sexual predator allowed to petition to have the sexual predator designation removed.
3.) Increase sexual predator/offender registration and reporting requirements.
4.) Sexual predators who murder their victims now qualify for the death penalty in capital cases.
5.) Failing to re-register as a sexual offender/predator, harboring, or assisting a sexual predator/offender is a third degree felony.
6.) Require those already convicted of sex crimes to have electronic monitoring for the rest of their probation
7.) Require all county misdemeanor probation officials to search the sexual offender registry when a new offender assigned to them.
Throughout the United States there are many sex offenders who have fallen thought the cracks? They have changed their identity and not re-registering once moved such offenders manipulate the system. North Carolina like many states has such problems and authorities limited till the laws change. There are many John Couey types and one could be living next to you?
Mr. Roger’s had it right; “ You need to know the people in your neighborhood.”
Taking a non-political stand various people, groups and organizations have formed an action group called, “Jessica’s Law Now North Carolina.”
The Group formed originally in response to apathetic lawmakers, who are dithering about Jessica’s Law not making a solid difference toward protecting our children. This formed coalition tired of all the prolonging games and excuses our lawmakers, have made when it comes to our children.
We say,“Cut the fat !” Rather spend on pet projects and guilt trips (Apologies for Slavery, Smoking Bans, Trans Fat Bans, etc.) focus.”
The excuses coming from our representatives are pathetic not looking at facts; they rather tell you why they cannot do something.
However, they certainly can find the time and funding for other things. Like other state and federal legislators, North Carolina legislators at times behave like “ P. I. M. P.’s ” or “ Power, Influence, Money, Politics !”
We worked Inco junction with Mark Lunsford and various lawmakers help see HB 933 be passed. We needed our local and state officials push for stronger laws against molestation. The goal was to work with people not a political machine.
In 2007, State Attorney General Roy Cooper realizes North Carolina laws are lenient on sex offenders. We are grateful for his public stance, on calling for harsher penalties and laws against sex offenders. Administrations have often failed to make law enforcement aware of the place-ment of paroled sex offenders in their communities, thus allowing violent sex offenders to go freely roam our communities. By not providing mandatory hearings and stricter penalties for non-compliances, they take the power away from our law enforcers.
“We should all work together to make sure that Jessica’s Law passed in all fifty states. There are presently 15 states that have not yet passed any form of Jessica’s Law, it saddens me to think that my home state of Tennessee and North Carolina where I grew up included in the list of states that have not passed Jessica’s Law. I do not know why, but I intend to find out.”God Bless, Charlie Daniels 2007.
With Jessica’s Law not moving forward much in 2007. We knew that had to take more drastic steps with our state leaders. This would be way bring our leaders in agreement on Jessica’s Law.
Positive ideal came from friend Marc Klaas. We compose a joint letter on the need for such laws, as Adam Walsh Act and Jessica’s Law. We were grateful to the media outlets that used letter, as news story. This started public putting many questions to state legislators.
Our organization applied much positive heat in 2008. We did various rallies and get-together that brought much public attention to Jessica’s Law. We had several people who made talks educating the importance for stricter laws and guidance for sex offenders. We talked with many local leaders throughout North Carolina and telling how they can help support this.
John Walsh of America’s Most Wanted and Bill O’Reilly of The O’Reilly Factor have been vocal proponents of Jessica’s Law, arguing that children be protected and that child sex offenders be held to a higher standard. O’Reilly points out that the states of Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Hawaii and Vermont have shown reluctance and refused to pass a Jessica’s Law in their respective state legislatures. He claims that Utah, North Carolina and New Mexico are inconclusive while all other states are either moving direction of passing a Jessica’s Law or have already passed some form of it.
Jessica’s Law Now North Carolina was grateful to John Walsh and his staff for their support and guidance. Along with the pressure that Bill O’Reilly was putting on North Carolina Governor Mike Easley and North Carolina Legislators in 2008.
On April 16, 2008, Mark Lunsford told Jessica’s Law Now North Carolina,” What happened to my daughter should have never happened, and I’m working to make sure it doesn’t happen to another child. It saddens me to know my home state of North Carolina has not yet passed Jessica’s Law. I won’t rest until we do.”
Jessica’s Law Now enforced a strong petition toward state legislators and made it personal not political. We found that politics blind sides our politician’s. That is why politician’s favorite color is plaid. This made many a state leader either mad or understood our reasons. We had many talks with various state legislators during this time. Make sure they fully understood our goals in doing this.
State Representative Tim Moore and I had many conversations and times heated. Representative Tim Moore made it clear,” Mark, you can do better than do so .” For next several months went to State Legislator Building almost daily. Several times I brought friends or media. I sat through every meeting that was possible and talk much as possible every representative daily.
We kept saying to North Carolina Legislators,”Are we there yet? “
Finally, it seems that Jessica’s Law was going happen. Several state representatives met talk on agreement for Jessica’s Law. They came out sharing news with us and shook on it. Now, we just had to wait for the votes. That selfish greed got in the way and no Jessica’s Law. Got frustrated beyond belief.
I got on the phone to a producer friend of mine in Atlanta and another in Charlotte. Together we came up with ideal that would blow the doors down. Since both parties are speaking out for Jessica’s Law. We will put them on national news telling why Jessica’s Law having problems. I knew they could make this happen, since they deal or work with CNN. I knew that Bill O’Reilly would really love this too.
We talked to several of main legislators on ideal and they love possibility. They were making problem and our solution known throughout parts of legislation. They place a time limit before they enact. Boy, things did a 180 turn not long after this got out. Stands made by legislators and us helped Jessica’s Law get passed. Many of us had tears of joy after taking 3 years get this law passed.
“One of the proudest moments in my life was calling Mark Lunsford and told him the North Carolina Legislators have passed HB 933 aka. Jessica’s Law. After Governor Easley signs Jessica’s Law, it will official take effect December 1, 2008,” said Mark A. Palmer, Executive Director of Jessica’s Law Now North Carolina.
Mark Lunsford overjoyed to see three years of hard work come to fruition. North Carolina was harder getting legislators come together, due to the various concerns of sexual offenders rights. What about the rights and concern over the victim. Again, you have to take politics out and make it personal for a Politian.
We were all so grateful to our allies in the North Carolina Legislation that never backed down and hung in. We deeply appreciated North Carolina Representative’s Julie Howard, Tim Moore and North Carolina State Senator Hoyle for their leadership.
Monday, July 28, 2008, a ceremonial took place at Gastonia Courthouse which North Carolina Governor Mike Easley signed HB 933 into law. It was finally official North Carolina has Jessica’s Law!
Since 2005, our organization has assisted nine other states obtaining versions Jessica’s Law. We have assisted with over seven hundred cases, where a victimized or assaulted child needed help. We are part of a larger network of organizations that aids Missing and Exploited children. This network consists of child advocates, media, law enforcement and national organizations make this possible. In 2009, we changed the name to “Jessica’s Law Now .”
Jessica’s Law Now, is proactive not reactive, in helping families deal with these issues fraught from cases like these. We continually helped steer victimized families and children towards counseling and healing. We fight for harsher laws for the welfare of our children.
States With/Without Jessica’s Law:
• States in yellow do not have any version of Jessica’s Law.
• States in green have a partial version of Jessica’s Law.
• States in purple have good version of Jessica’s Law.
In 2006, New York enacted water down version of Jessica’s Law. It created class A-II felony for a person over the age 18 years old commits a class B violent felony sex offense (rape 1st, criminal sexual act 1st, aggravated sexual abuse 1st, and course of sexual conduct against a child 1st) against a child less than 13 years of age. Still many feel that New York can strengthen what’s lacking comes to its version of Jessica’s Law. New York State Senator Kathleen A. Marchione (R,C-Halfmoon) and New York State Assemblyman Jim Tedisco (R,C,I-Glenville) have introduced stronger legislation that enacts fuller version of Jessica’s Law. They are hoping state legislators will pass harsher version in their 2013 session.
In 2007, we had many conversations with legislator’s from Idaho, Illinois, Wyoming, Colorado, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Hawaii and Vermont with their lack of support for Jessica’s Law. All we heard was complaints about lack of funding.
Basic reasons lawmakers’ give of not passing Jessica’s Law is the cost of longer sentences and added monitoring.
Colorado Senator Penry said, “ I believe that there is a real need to enact Jessica’s Law, a tough minimum mandatory requirement of 20 years in prison for the first time a monster rapes a child.”
Senator Penry felt be worth the cost protect our children. Especially that not every District Court treats cases like Colorado Chief Deputy District Attorney Tammy Eret claims.
Colorado Senator Penry introduced Jessica’s Law in 2007 and it failed.
A year later, Colorado Chief Deputy District Attorney Tammy Eret said, “ We have laws here in Colorado that are very similar in fact, that actually carry lifetime sentences, some that are longer than Jessica’s Law.”
Sure the many victims like Jon Benet Ramsey would agree with justice is lacking in state.
In 2012, we have six states that do not have Jessica’s Law. They include New Jersey, Vermont, Illinois, Colorado, Idaho and Hawaii. If they had Jessica’s Law; it imposes a minimum 25-year sentence on any adult convicted for the first time of violating the sexual innocence of a child.
New Jersey has been like a roller coaster with Jessica’s Law. Legislators will claim going to pass Jessica’s Law and does not happen. This has been going on for several years. Mark Lunsford made many trips to New Jersey give support that’s been requested. Still the legislators cannot get their act together.
Both the State Senate and State House are in turmoil with their own versions of Jessica’s Law. Presently we have two different versions that are sitting in state legislation. One can only hope that legislators can work this out. If not more than likely it will die.
New Jersey is the same issue that North Carolina faced, it almost did not make the floor be heard, there were fights about the”language” in the bill, and toward the end it was being held hostage.
It took legislators on both sides willing to stand up and explain to the press, people and state about why this bill would fail so close to completion. As we mediating between everyone to negotiate a last way to get this bill finalized else it would have been another year, starting from the beginning, hearing the same arguments, etc. As it was, it was several years of working towards this end. It is a shame that New Jersey come so close only to fail. We have told what it take do this. Have to sit on these guys daily and ask,”Are we there yet?”
October 21, 2012, Mark Lunsford told us:”New Jersey legislators more than likely putting off Jessica’s Law until December. I am concern how Jersey’s legislators are tearing Jessica’s Law apart.”
New Jersey Legislators seem more concern with other issue’s like seat belts for pets than children’s safety. Was told Jessica’s Law was a lower priory many legislators.
Just like the thinking of Colorado and New Jersey legislators, other state officials are more the same in their thoughts comes to Jessica’s Law. New York, Illinois, Idaho and Hawaii feel that their states are fine comes to their laws for children and predators. Even though many of these states have been in the news with various crimes comes to children.
Our children are precious gifts not only us but the world. That is our duty as parents and a society to protect their welfare. Seems that our lawmakers are forgetting their jobs and time has come to remind them. We need to pressure the State Legislators and Governors of New Jersey, New York, Illinois, Colorado, Idaho and Hawaii have Jessica’s Law.
Many a parent, victims and citizens join in with Mark Lunsford’s crusade. Their mission is telling importance of having Jessica’s Law. Several citizens even made web sites and organized action committee’s make they out cries know.
February 21, 2013, New Jersey’s General Assembly finally passed Jessica’s Law. It is long over due and will increases the criminal penalties on those who commit sex crimes against minors. The version will prove a sentence of between 25 years and life imprisonment for aggravated sexual assault of a victim less than 13 years old. The bill also establishes a period of parole in eligibility of at least 25 years for a person convicted of aggravated sexual assault of a victim less than 13 years old.
Many hope New Jersey’s State Senate will do the same and pass Jessica’s Law. Like the New Jersey’s General Assembly did. That will only leave the governor sign it.
In late 2013, Colorado, Idaho and New Jersey Legislator’s still could not pass Jessica’s Law. Their main excuse is funding and our state laws are tough enough. We say, tell that to the sexually abused children and their parents.
Other problem legislators have faced with trying to pass Jessica’s Law and other harsher laws on sex offenders. Various lawyers, law firms challenging rights for sex offenders. Has brought many battles to our courts questioning constitution of law.
Thus far in 2013, Maryland, Oklahoma and Indian few of the states to challenge various laws about sex offenders. Various lawyers feel that the rights of sex offender’s been violated making the law Unconstitutional. Sadly in many of these cases laws or statues redirected in favor of the sex offender.
This is why, it’s so important that legislators use the needed wording in their laws making them constitutional not unconstitutional.
Representatives are pathetic not looking at facts; they rather tell you why they cannot do something. Tired of all the prolonging games and excuse’s our lawmakers, have made when it comes to our children. We say,“Cut the BS!”
Battle for Caylee’s Law and Improve Amber Alerts :
We have joined with several organizations for the passing of “ Caylee’s Law ” and “ Mandatory Amber Alerts .”
In the wake of the Casey Anthony verdict, many states are making plans to adopt some version of a law to prevent similar situations from happening. Presently no state or federal law states have to report the death of a child or a child missing?
We want our legislator’s have a bolder and constitutional version of Caylee’s Law. State’s that have pass Caylee’s Law are lacking and not bold enough.
Some versions have children13 under or 12 under reported missing within 24 hours. Children older reported missing by 48 to 72 hours.
This is a travesty and our children paying the price.
A bolder version would need parents to report within 24 hours of realizing their child or a child under their care is missing. Additionally, parents or legal guardians would be required to contact law enforcement within one hour of discovering their child had died. Those failing to do so would face criminal charges.
In 2011, Arizona State Representative Michele Ugenti, R-District 8, introduced House Bill 2018, or “Caylee’s Law,” it would make it a class 5 felony if a parent fails to report that a child under six years of age has gone missing.
Arizona Legislators have water down importance of Caylee’s Law. Just goes to show they do not know what they are talking about. Arizona Legislators have failed our children by wanting to passing this.
July 2011, we had an hour-long conversation with Arizona State Senator Linda Gray made our concerns known. We explain why, Arizona’s version of Caylee’s Law isn’t strict enough and seen hypocritical comes toward teenagers.
In our discussion, Arizona State Senator Linda Gray made clear send us copy of bill and her office is contact us for a meeting. None of this actions occurred. We reach out her several ways and never receive a reply. We felt by no action, Arizona State Senator Linda Gray not concern.
Arizona Senator Linda Gray is pushing House Bill 2018, version Caylee’s Law that is not bolder and no concern for missing children 7 up. It is far from what the original intent of Caylee’s Law. Thus far has passed in the AZ House and hope that AZ Senators will give a Na to this version of Caylee’s Law.
Arizona Legislation where in disputes over 2011 version of Caylee’s Law and came tabled.
In 2012, Arizona State Republican Rep. Michelle Ugenti (you-gen-tee) of Scottsdale sponsored the bill; it would make it a felony punishable by a presumptive sentence of 1 1/2 years if a parent to fails to report that a child under age six has miss for 24 hours.
Arizona’s 2012 version of ‘Caylee’s Law’ died with Legislator’s in much turmoil. They fought over who gets to run the police force in the polygamous community of Colorado City, which deals with known case Warren Jeff.
Arizona legislators could resolve issue’s providing want to.
Question raise about Amber Alerts improve system!
Each state AMBER Alert plan has its own criteria for issuing AMBER Alerts. The PROTECT Act, passed in 2003, which established the role of AMBER Alert Coordinator within the Department of Justice (DOJ), calls for DOJ to issue minimum standards or guidance for AMBER Alerts that states can adopt voluntarily.
Amber Alerts work once law enforcement determines that a child abducted and the abduction meets AMBER Alert criteria, law enforcement issues an AMBER Alert and notifies broadcasters and state transportation officials.
Several known cases that have occurred which authorities drag their feet because they felt child ran-away or too much time pass before more action taken. In these cases the child was a teenager and found dead. It should not matter the age of a child reported missing, especially when time is of the Essence for a missing child. When it comes to finding a missing child. It can mean the difference in finding a child dead or alive!
Cases like: Hailey Owens, Isabel Mercedes Celis, Chelsea King, Monte and Collin Walker, Jhessye Shockley, Kyron Horman, Max Hernandez and Gabriel Johnson, did not either have an Amber Alert issued or the Amber Alert delay, by red-tape, miscommunication, or that the abduction doesn’t fit the criteria, or they felt they did not have enough evidence to suggest that an alert needed or necessary.
Some states have liaisons , who decide if an Amber Alert merited. When time is of the essence, we do not have the luxury of red tape. It is naïve to think that there is a one-size fits all criteria, when it comes to abductions, when there is clearly different cases, with unique circumstances.
Any missing child needs looked at factually and separately. Authorities focus on the over all too many times.
Their contingency plans occur certain issues come up, that allows for immediate response such as: Mental and Emotional state of the abductors or parent, potential harm or danger to the child, domestic violence history, and out-of-country flight risks, etc.
Too many times, we do not err on the side of caution, and we end up with a tragic ending, what is worse is we cannot honestly say everything done to curb what happened.
If a simple Amber Alert issued, at the time of the disappearance, it may have stopped these events from unfolding in the way they had. The Amber Alert is a tool, which needs be fully used in a more effective way by law enforcement. We prefer law enforcement to err on the side of caution than to stand by, and not enact in a timely manner.
Abduction of 10-year-old Hailey Owens on February 18, 2014 was a blow to citizens of Springfield, Missouri.
Two witnesses saw adduction of Hailey Owen and tried help. They called to Hailey and her captor to get and bring attention. The witnesses got the license plate and told authorities. A near-by neighbor saw the innocent and followed suspect till traffic stop him.
Police could have release Amber Alert immediately but didn’t. The time the authorities got to the suspects residence Craig Michael Wood. They found various forms of child pornography, various weapons and Hailey Owens body stuffed in a storage container. Craig Michael Wood worked with the Springfield, Missouri public School system for 16 years.
News asked, Springfield Police Chief Paul Williams reason it took 114 minutes for Amber Alert come out? He made it clear, it takes time go through all the rules and regulations. Then we have to wait on the state put it out.
Now, what is wrong with this picture? Our legislators have messed up our laws, alerts with red tape and political bureaucracy.
Jessica’s Law Now had many state and federal legislators tell us many excuses for the need of bureaucracy and red tape. It boils down to power and money for them. They make it clear, by their actions our children’s welfare isn’t important. These selfish acts are a dangerous demise our children’s future.
We have felt for sometime major changes need to occur with Amber Alerts. We have made many a proposal to state and federal leaders through the years. They yell of cost and that is non-sense. It boils down to selfishness on our leader’s part.
We propose that national guidance need be adopted, to make Amber Alerts mandatory and not voluntary. Where there is a comprehensive, clear, concise criterion to enact upon when there is a missing child, a prenatally abducted child, etc.
We need to streamline the processes especially when lives are at stake. Once the child is safely in custody then law enforcement and courts can untangle, what is what.
Too many children that are dead or missing today fit the criteria and authorities refused to issue Amber Alert, when they should have. Most state’s guidelines adhere closely to DOJ’s recommended guidelines. However, there are conflicts in criteria about parental abduction, and missing children.
The UNIFORM CHILD ABDUCTION PREVENTION ACT has criteria that be used with the Amber Alert.
If for any reason, lawmakers feel that the criteria(s) are too dissimilar to include parental abduction in the Amber Alert criteria, then we formally ask that they enact a similar alert for at risk children from parental abduction.
Many believe that a child is not in grave danger if the abductors are a family member.
Unfortunately, this is not true, and these assumptions continue to endanger our children’s lives. Research shows that the most common motive in family abductions was not love for the child but rather an act of anger and revenge against the other parent. More than half of abducting parents have a history of domestic violence, substance abuse, mental issues, or a criminal record. Physical and sexual abuse can and does occur during these abductions.
The overwhelming majority of family abduction cases involve families undergoing custody dispute, however there is the darker side also, where it involves a break down and the parent taking the child, using them as a weapon to inflict pain.
We have too many known case’s that say different when a parent taken a child. These situations are too many and as a society time come to enact.
We ask that you speak with your local, state and national representatives, so they get involve. You can discuss ideas, plans, hopes, and support them in the process. We ask that when you discuss these matters, that you do so with respect to one another. With that being said there is nothing wrong with spirited debate, as long as you are polite.