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Published: Thursday, 3/13/2003

Bill would tighten law for sexual offenders


COLUMBUS - On Sept. 9, 2002, 14-year-old Kristen Jackson disappeared from the Wayne County fairgrounds in Wooster.

Last December, Joel D. Yockey, 46, confessed to raping, strangling, and then dismembering her body. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Six months before Kristen Jackson's death, Yockey was released from prison after serving 15 years for raping a 17-year-old in Wayne County. He moved in with his parents.

Kristen Jackson's parents and others nearby weren't notified that a convicted rapist had moved into their neighborhood.

That's because Yockey had been classified as a “sexually-oriented” offender. Although state law requires that class of sex offenders to register with local law enforcement when they get out of prison, state law doesn't require neighbors to be notified.

Yesterday, the Ohio Senate approved a bill to prevent sex offenders like Yockey from slipping through the cracks of Ohio's version of “Megan's Law.” It is named after a 7-year-old New Jersey girl who was raped and murdered in 1984 by a twice-convicted sex offender who had moved into a house across the street.

The bill would require courts to hold a hearing to determine whether offenders sentenced before Ohio passed its “Megan's Law” in 1996 should be classified as sexual predators. Law enforcement is required to notify all neighbors living within 1,000 feet of a sexual predator's address and it's a lifelong requirement.

The measure also would create a statewide Internet database of sexual offenders, said the sponsor, state Sen. Jeff Jacobson (R., Dayton).

Also yesterday, the Senate unanimously approved a bill that backers say will help the state combat a potential bioterror attack.

The bill would require trauma centers to tell the state about preparations to respond to “disasters, mass casualties, and bioterrorism,” and pharmacies to report sharply increased sales of medicine such as Cipro.

The state also is expected to work closer with law enforcement. The law change would permit information from an investigation to be confidential.

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