Sierah’s Law

Mon April 17, 2017 06:43:15 AM EST

Senators Cliff Hite and Randy Gardner

Sierah’s Law

By Lily Langan

 

A bill that has been recently assigned to the Ohio Senate Judiciary Committee would require the Attorney General to establish a violent offender registry, and would be known as “Sierah’s Law – in memory of Sierah Joughin – a young woman that was horrifically murdered along a rural road in Fulton County, Ohio last July. (https://www.legislature.ohio.gov/legislation/legislation-summary?id=GA132-SB-67

 

Senate Bill 67 is sponsored by Senator Randy Gardner (R-Bowling Green) (http://ohiosenate.gov/gardner) and Senator Cliff Hite (R-Findlay) (http://ohiosenate.gov/hite), in response to an online petition signed by over 10,000 people – asking that the State of Ohio establish a violent offender registry. It would be available to both the public and law enforcement officials to “improve awareness and faster response times when missing person alerts are issued or an abduction or kidnapping occurs or is suspected” the Senators stated during their sponsor testimony in late February.

 

3rd Rail Politics reached out to Senator Gardner and he explained the purpose of this new legislation: “Many people do not realize that law enforcement agencies in Ohio have no organized data base providing information as to where convicted felons, such as murderers and kidnappers, reside. That kind of information can be helpful so that officers can react promptly when a crime is committed or suspected.” 

 

Sierah Joughin was entering her junior year at the University of Toledo, an excellent and thriving student and volunteer, and had just recently accepted a summer internship with Ice Industries, her uncle’s company. In July of 2016, Sierah failed to return home from her boyfriend’s house after what should have been a quick bicycle ride. Sensing something was wrong, her family began to panic and spring into action.  After emergency services were contacted; police, search units, and the entire family began their hunt for Sierah. 

 

First, Sierah’s family sought to access a history of violent offenders in a ten mile radius of her abduction. The sex offender registry that was put into place by legislators “worked just like it was meant to that night…but unfortunately, the man indicted for this crime was not on any list or registry” Sierah’s mother told the Senate Judiciary Committee during her testimony. Although it would later be discovered that Sierah’s attacker was no stranger to law enforcement, he could not be found on any registries, and as the family asked police if they could access a data base for violent offenders in their area that could help them identify possible threats, they were told that no such registry exists. Howard Ice, Sierah’s uncle, expressed his frustration during his testimony: “the information is out there, but it is in every Courthouse across the State, listed as a case number, not a criminal…even the FBI did not have access to this kind of centralized information” 

 

Tragically, the search discovered that Sierah had been murdered, her lifeless body being discovered on July 22, 2016 near a rural Fulton County country road. http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/remains-missing-ohio-student-sierah-joughin-believed-found-article-1.2723183

 

Sierah’s murderer, James D. Worely, had previously been convicted in another abduction in July 1990, and spent three years in prison for that felony.

 

“Ohio can do better…[we] must provide citizens and local law enforcement with the information that can help make our communities safer,” said Gardner.

 

Sheila Vaculick, Sierah’s mother, and Howard Ice both gave their testimonies late last month: “by simply changing legislation to force convicted violent criminals to register, we CAN save lives. We can equip law enforcement with the tools they need to identify predators within those crucial moments when a crisis occurs. We can change the outcome of other violent crimes” (Sheila Vaculick). Howard Ice asks Chairman Bacon and the other members of the judiciary committee: “does a registry meet the fundamental responsibility of government, to help safeguard its citizens? I believe Sierah’s Law does” (Howard Ice). 

 

The argument exists that a criminal registry such as Senate Bill 67 would violate civil rights and due process, essentially disturbing the privacy of the ex-convict that would “never free {him} from the crime”. (http://www.toledoblade.com/Featured-Editorial-Home/2016/12/07/Toledo-Blade-editorial-Sierah-Joughin-Law.html). However, Sierah’s Law focuses on the most violent of offenders: aggravated murder, voluntary manslaughter, kidnapping, and abduction. Sierah’s mother articulates that these offenders are already in our communities, living amongst our children and near our schools…”registering for a crime you consciously committed just makes you accountable for your actions” (http://www.twinsburgbulletin.com/regional/2017/03/22/sierahs-law-would-create-registry-of-violent-offenders-for-investigations)

 

While there are only five states that successfully implemented a violent offender registry, (Indiana, Illinois, Montana, Kansas, and Oklahoma) they all are substantively different. S.B. 67 specifically would require the Ohio Attorney General to establish the registry and expand all 88 country offender registries by the end of this year. It provides some guidance but without mandates as to what felonies would be included or how the registry would be implemented, and Senator Gardner and Senator Hite say it is likely that county sheriffs would be primarily responsible for local implementation but that it is to be decided by the Attorney General and the General and the General Assembly through the legislative process (Senator Gardner and Senator Hite). (http://m.northwestsignal.net/bryan_times/article_0e000528-df37-5291-b15a-d38e0b81c5c0.html?mode=jqm)  

 

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine (https://www.mikedewine.com/) shared his support for this  proposal in a letter to the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Senator Kevin Bacon (R-Blendon Twp.)(http://ohiosenate.gov/bacon): “…time after time, we’ve seen that violent criminals convicted of the most heinous crimes are a danger to Ohioans…[Sierah’s Law] would give families information about those living near them who could affect their safety, similar to the sex offender registry already in place” 

 

According to a study commissioned by Attorney General DeWine’s office concerning violent crime in Ohio, (over the last 40 years) 10.9% of all felons in Ohio are responsible for 100% of violent crimes. Data compiled by the Department of Justice also shows that 71.3% of inmates released from prison after serving time for a violent offense have been arrested for a new crime within five years. He also addressed the potential issue of cost, stating in his letter that he believes his office could incorporate a violent registry within the same system of the existing sex offender registry. He reports as a preliminary estimate, the violent offender registry costs about “$350,000 to establish and operate the first year with a subsequent annual cost of approximately $175,000 plus personnel costs.”


DeWine expressed his interest in working with the Judiciary Committee and any other interested parties on any future amendments to this bill, and to its ultimate passage. 3rd Rail Politics attempted to interview Senator Bacon for this story, but received no response at the time of publication. There has been no opponent testimony at this time.




©2017 by 3rd Rail Politics

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