Preventing more rape

By Andrew Welsh-Huggins The Associated Press

COLUMBUS – When Mark Lunsford heard his daughter’s alarm clock going off he didn’t pay much attention. He figured 9-year-old Jessica, always up first, just hadn’t turned it off.

Then Lunsford discovered Jessica’s bedroom empty and began a frantic search for the youngest of his five children, the girl he described as his best friend.

Lunsford, a Dayton native, riveted a committee hearing yesterday as he recounted the story of his daughter’s 2005 kidnapping and murder in Florida. He spoke as part of a campaign for tougher penalties for sex offenders.

The Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony from Lunsford in support of a bill that would require judges to sentence defendants convicted of raping children under 13 to at least 25 years in prison.

“If you put them away for 25 years, that’s 25 years they can’t hurt one of our kids,” Lunsford said.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Steve Austria, would also require a mandatory sentence of 15 years for defendants convicted of gross sexual imposition, a lesser offense that can include sexual assault that stops short of rape.

The legislation is one of at least 19 pending bills trying to toughen laws regarding sex offenders in Ohio.

The proposals for the most part have been making their way through the General Assembly for weeks or months but gained recent urgency following publicity about a judge’s decision to sentence a man to probation for repeatedly assaulting two small boys.

“We’re sending a strong message to individuals out there that if you commit these crimes, you’re not going to get a second chance,” said Austria, a Dayton-area Republican. “We’re going to send you away for a long time.”