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‘Jessica’s Law’ supporters turn up the heat

Local supporters of “Jessica’s Law,” a campaign started in Florida after the rape and murder of 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford that calls for stricter sentences for child sex offenders, rallied last week in Olympia to draw the attention of local lawmakers.

Among the supporters was former Rep. Lois McMahan, who said the 150 people present at the rally were just a small fraction of the overall number of Washington residents calling for harsher punishments of those who abuse children sexually.

Jessica’s Law, or House Bill 2476, would mandate a prison sentence of 25 years to life for all sex offenders who violate any child under the age of 12, regardless of the offender’s relationship to the victim.

The crowd of parents, concerned Wash-ington residents and victim’s advocates included John Lunsford, who spoke passionately in favor of passing the harsher law.

Lunsford’s daughter Jessica, for which the law was named, was abducted last year from her Florida home.

John Couey, who had been living just 150 yards away, confessed that he kept her locked in a closet for three days before burying her alive behind the mobile home where he was staying.

“We (also) heard testimony from several victims of childhood sexual abuse, as well as some of the mothers,” McMahan said. “The Republicans are pushing a stricter law and we’re encouraging the Legislature to pass it without watering it down.”

Twenty-sixth District Reps. Pat Lantz (D-Gig Harbor) and Derek Kilmer (D-Gig Harbor) said they are working on several bills that will “catch more sex offenders, convict more sex offenders and protect more children,” although some supporters of Jessica’s Law have accused Democrats of being lenient for not passing the 116-page bill on the first day of the session.

“An issue as important as our children’s safety deserves more than a five-minute glance by Legislators. We’re confident we will approve legislation this year that will move us forward on the path to making and keeping our children safe,” said Lantz and Kilmer in a joint statement.

McMahan said she is glad to hear it.

“No priority is more important than protecting Washington’s children,” McMahan said.

For more information on Jessica’s Law visit www.preservechildhoodinnocence.com.

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