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Assembly members Munoz, Schroeder meet with ‘Joan’s Law’ mom to push ‘Jessica’s Law’ for NJ

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot
Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot

YOU READ IT HERE FIRST : State Assembly members Nancy Munoz and Bob Schroeder met with activist Rosemarie D’Alessandro and members of her “Joan’s Joy” organization Tuesday night to discuss, among other topics, the push for a New Jersey version of Jessica’s Law.

Schroeder, D’Alessandro, Munoz (CLIFFIVEW PILOT PHOTO)

“We will continue to fight to protect our children,” said Munoz, who sponsored a bill that mirrors the Jessica Lunsford Act, which aims to keep sex offenders away from children after they’ve been released from prison.

New Jersey is one of only six states that doesn’t have such a measure, named after a 9-year-old girl who was raped, tortured and then murdered by a child molester and rapist in Florida.

A version of the bill pending in Trenton  would require lower-tier sex offenders to wear GPS devices on their ankles for five years after they’re freed, and for those deemed more dangerous to wear them for life.

This, D’Alessandro said, would help law enforcement track them.

Part of the measure’s appeal, Schroeder said, is that it‘s “a non-partisan issue“ that allows Republicans and Democrats the chance to “further the cause of victims’ rights in New Jersey.”

D’Alessandro pledged her support to Munoz to raise awareness of the prop osal.

“We can work together to pass this important child safety legislation in New Jersey,” she said.

Jessica’s father, Mark Lunsford, was supposed to attended but reportedly missed his plane and didn’t make the meeting at D’Alessandro’s Hillsdale home.

He is expected to meet with state officials in Trenton at the end of March.

D‘Alessandro — whose daughter was raped and murdered by a neighbor in 1973, eventually leading to “Joan’s Law” — created the Joan Angela Foundation to help homeless, runaway and abused youngsters.

Her daughter,

State Assemblyman Bob Schroeder, Rosemarie D’Alessandro (CLIFFVIEWPILOT.COM PHOTO)

a vivacious, 7-year-old Brownie Scout, was going door-to-door selling Girl Scout cookies on April 19, 1973 (Holy Thursday) when a high school chemistry teacher who lived in the neighborhood sexually assaulted and murdered her.

Her body was found on Easter in Harriman State Park.

When Joseph McGowan became eligible for parole 20 years later, D’Alessandro organized a letter writing, green ribbon campaign that led officials to deny Joseph McGowan parole. But she didn’t stop there.

The very idea that a child murderer could be released from prison created the idea of “Joan’s Law,” which the state Legislature adopted in 1997 — denying the possibility of parole to offenders who murder while committing a sex crime.

A federal version of the law followed in 1998. New York State adopted its own in 2004.

D’Alessando also convinced New Jersey lawmakers to eliminate what had been a two-year statute of limitations on suing murderers.

McGowan’s sentence made him parole-eligible after serving 14 years. Because “Joan’s Law” is not retroactive, he came up for parole — and was denied — four times.

So D’Alessandro’s group gathered 80,000 signatures, along with 7,000 letters, and held two rallies at the State House in Trenton in 2009, after which the Parole Board added 18 years before McGowan (now 64) will again be eligible for release.

Under the measure proposed by Munoz, New Jersey also would be required to mail sex offender registration forms at least twice per year, at random times, to verify registrants’ addresses. Any registrants who did not respond within 10 days would have to be considered non-compliant.

Those who commit sex crimes against children under 12 would receive mandatory prison sentences of 25 years to life without parole, along with lifetime monitoring, under the proposal.

What’s more, those who knowingly harbor child sex offenders from the law would face stricter penalties, and municipalities would be enabled to establish “child protection zones” where sex offenders cannot cause danger to children.

FOR MORE INFO: www.Joansjoy.org

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