Thursday, January 16, 2003

Taft wants stricter rules for sex offenders

The Associated Press

COLUMBUS - Ohio would expand the number of crimes covered by the state's Megan's law, require repeat sex offenders to register with authorities and neighbors for life and increase penalties for offenders who don't register, under recommendations released Wednesday by Gov. Bob Taft.

Mr. Taft ordered a review of the state's sex offender laws after the strangling death of 14-year-old Kristen Jackson in September.

Mr. Taft said the recommendations of a task force he appointed would help "prevent senseless acts" like Ms. Jackson's death.

Last month, Joel Yockey of Wooster pleaded guilty to aggravated murder, rape and kidnapping and was sentenced to life in prison without the chance of parole. He was the only suspect in the death of Ms. Jackson, whose body parts were found days after she disappeared from the Wayne County Fair in September.

The committee reviewed Ohio's 1997 Megan's Law requiring convicted sex offenders to register with local police. The law also requires community notification for the most serious offenders.

Mr. Yockey was released from prison in March after serving a 15-year sentence for raping a teenager in 1986. He was living with his parents west of Wooster. Kristen was known to visit a friend whose family lived next door to Mr. Yockey.

Mr. Yockey was required to report his address to the sheriff for 10 years after his release as a "sexually oriented offender."

Officials are not required to notify neighbors, as they do in more serious cases, when offenders are classified as "sexual predators" or "habitual sex offenders."

Other recommendations include requiring sex offenders to register in the county where they work and the creation of an Internet database of sex offenders.

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