Tuesday, March 29, 2005

This Really Angers Me: The State Of Florida Loses Track Of 1800 Sex Offenders

John Couey, A Face Of Evil
In today's Miami Herald, they are reporting that the state of Florida lost track of 1800 sex offenders in the month before the abduction and murder of Jessica Lunsford:

One month before a registered sexual offender allegedly kidnapped, raped and murdered 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford, Florida law enforcement agencies had lost track of at least 1,800 other sexual offenders statewide, according to a review of Florida's Sexual Offender/Predator Registry.

John Evander Couey, the man who would confess to killing Jessica, was not even listed as one of them because no one knew he wasn't living at his reported address and was staying near the Lunsfords.

The fact that Couey wasn't marked as missing raises questions not only about how aggressively the state tracks offenders known to be on the lam, but how many others have absconded and aren't noticed at all.

Couey was supposed to be living more than five miles from the Lunsford residence in Homosassa. Officials at the Citrus County Sheriff's Office said they discovered he was staying less than a block from the Lunsford's in his half-sister's mobile home -- only after they began interviewing sex offenders as part of their investigation into Jessica's disappearance.

Police found Jessica's body buried nearby after a three-week search.But breakdowns in the system conjure up memories of other heinous crimes committed by sexual offenders who were supposed to be closely monitored.

Howard Steven Ault was a registered sexual offender on probation when the father of an 11-year-old girl in Lauderdale Lakes reported Ault tried to sexually assault her on New Year's Eve, 1995.

He wasn't arrested in that case until November 1996 -- and only after police brought him in to answer questions in yet another case: two missing sisters, age 7 and 11.

While in custody, he confessed to strangling the two sisters and hiding their bodies in the attic of his Fort Lauderdale apartment. Ault, 38, has been on Florida's Death Row since 2000.

The first duty of any modern and democratic society is the defense of its most vulnerable members. And that especially means children. Every time one of these horrendous crimes occurs, we hear countless recriminations about how the system "failed" to protect the victims. Sometimes (but not always) a new law, (such as Megan's Law) is passed to plug a loophole.

The big problem is that the laws that are already on the books are not being enforced. A variety of excuses are offered for this lack of enforcement, the most common being that agencies charged with protecting children are "underfunded."

Politics needs to be set aside, and agencies that are designated with keeping an eye on these miscreants need to receive all the funding necessary in order to do their jobs.

As for the John E. Couey, the confessed killer of Jessica Lunsford, if we assume that he is sentenced to death for his crime, he will likely die of old age long before his date with the executioner. This is because of the practically endless appeals process that postpones the executions of such monsters as Couey for up to 20 years.

And nothing ever seems to actually change.

More talk is cheap. It's high time that something was done to protect our children from these predators.
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