When Will The United States Tighten Up Its Sex Offender Registry?

In 2001, James Leggs was convicted of the rape of a minor and deemed a “high risk” sex offender by the state of Delaware. Eight years later, he’s now suspected of kidnapping and killing 11-year-old Sarah Foxwell just last week.

Foxwell disappeared from her home on Tuesday night, and was last seen with Leggs, who has since been arrested and charged with her kidnapping. Though no additional charges have been filed just yet, Foxwell’s body was discovered in a wooded area on Christmas day, and according to the Baltimore Sun, police “call the girl’s death murder” and are still collecting evidence and leads while Leggs remains in prison without bail.

It is an incredibly frustrating story in that we’ve heard it many times before: a child disappears, turns up dead, and a registered sex offender is to blame. And while Leggs was designated as “high risk” in the state in which he committed his 2001 rape, as Jill Rosen of the Sun points out, the “high risk” designation is nowhere to be found on the Maryland sex offender registry, raising questions as to how an offender can be considered “high risk” in one state but not in another.

There is another story circulating the internet this weekend, a somewhat happier yet still horrifying story, wherein a 5-year-old girl was retrieved from a would-be kidnapper after a wild police chase in Phoenix. Police are calling it a “Christmas Miracle,” as the girl was recovered from the sex offender (she was molested by the kidnapper) against the odds. Yet it’s still a terrible sad and disturbing story, especially when one considers the flaws in the system, and how easy it is for something like this to happen again and again, without a happy ending.

Md. Girl’s Death Sharpens Criticism Of Sex Offender Laws [WashingtonPost]
PD: Kidnapped Girl Rescued After West Valley Pursuit [ABC15]

Send an email to Hortense, the author of this post, at commenters@jezebel.com.

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  1. http://tinyurl.com/yzxlmcx

    Maryland lawmakers are already behaving as though they have won a libidinal lottery ticket. State Sen. Nancy Jacobs (R-Harford) is screaming for blood. She intends to “go … as far we can” in tough new laws to crack down on sex offenders. Jacobs co-sponsored Maryland’s version of Jessica’s Law, a bill passed in 2006 that set sentencing guidelines for child sex offenders. The legistation was named for another child martyr, a 9-year-old Florida girl who was kidnapped, sexually abused and killed by a convicted child sex offender. On the legislative docket: abandoning parole of sex offenders, limitations on plea bargaining and permitting wiretapping of suspected sex offenders.

    This is not responsible lawmaking. It is pandering to the lowest common denominator in a community torn asunder by grief. In the wake of the great pain and grief caused by the murder of young Miss Foxwell, it is understandable that folks want to rush to do something, anything, to make sure such a crime never happens again. But mass hysteria isn’t a reasoned response to evil. Maryland lawmakers resemble nothing so much today as cast members of the old horror film, “Night of the Living Dead.” They stumbled along in a twilight of grief, blindly lashing out at phantoms.

    Every time the murder of a child becomes national news, we get harsh new laws. There’s Megan’s Law, Jessica’s Law, the Adam Walsh Act, and still Sarah Haley Foxwell was murdered. When will lawmakers learn that throwing printer’s ink in the form of new laws at recent grief merely yields a different sort of grief, one visited upon countless others dragged within in the hideous net of overbroad laws passed by folks behaving as though they were at a wake, and not attending to the serious business of passing law.

    More and tougher laws about sex offenders will not prevent the abuse of children. Another tragic death is always a heart beat away. The grim logic of those who think we can legislate our way to safety forget the obvious truth that laws are only as good as the people who make them. When hysterics make the rules, everyone gets hurt.

    Mourn Sarah Haley Foxwell. Weep over the loss of her life and our lost innocence. But before we pass another law on sex offenders won’t someone please stop to think about whether the laws already on the books are doing more harm than good.
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