Resolute father pushes ‘Jessica’s Law’

Four states have stricter laws against child sex offenders

By TONY RIZZO
The Kansas City Star

Mark Lunsford is a quiet man by nature.

But the terrible crime committed against his 9-year-old daughter,
Jessica, has given him a voice that is hard to ignore. He has done in
Florida, Alabama, Louisiana and Arizona, Lunsford came to Kansas to push
for longer sentences and stricter monitoring of criminals who commit sex
crimes against children.

The measures, known as ‘Jessica’s Law,’ have passed in those four states,
and some Kansas officials hope Lunsford will spur similar action in
Kansas.

On Tuesday, Lunsford spoke to a 29-member task force that Kline assembled
to study and propose changes to the state’s child sex laws and sex
offender registration requirements.

The man charged with kidnapping, sexually assaulting and killing Jessica
earlier this year in Florida was a career criminal who flouted that
state’s sex offender registration law.

Snatched from her bed in the night, Jessica was kept hostage several days
before being placed alive in a plastic trash bag and buried clutching a
stuffed dolphin her father had given her, according to allegations in the
case.

John Couey is charged with capital murder in her death. As a previously
convicted sex offender, he was required to register with authorities.

But he registered at an address different from where he lived – with
relatives across the street from the Lunsfords. He also worked at
Jessica’s school.

Within weeks of her murder, and the killing of another Florida child by
another registered sex offender, lawmakers in Florida unanimously passed
the Jessica Lunsford Act, which Gov. Jeb Bush signed into law in May.

Kansas Rep. Patricia Kilpatrick of Overland Park, a member of Kline’s
task force who has drafted a bill that would incorporate some of the same
features, invited Mark Lunsford to Kansas.

She and Kline said Wednesday that they hope Kansas adopts its own version
of Jessica’s Law.

Missouri adopted a law this past summer mandating the use of electronic
tracking to monitor certain sex offenders.

Mark Lunsford plans to return to Kansas to testify on the proposal when
the Legislature is in session.
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On the Web

Information about the Jessica Marie Lunsford Foundation can be found at
www.jmlfoundation.com (Link: http://www.jmlfoundation.com) .

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© Copyright 2004 Knight Ridder

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