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are happy to announce that Roberta's Law has now passed BOTH The
Ohio House of Representatives and The Ohio Senate unanimously
and now heads to Ohio Governor John Kasich for his signature.
This is an incredible moment for both the Francis family and
for all crime victims in the state of Ohio. Thank you
to everyone who has supported our efforts. Each of you has truly
made a difference.
Revive 'Roberta's Law' to give victims voice to prevent risky
paroles Editorial, The Columbus Dispatch, February 7,
Ohioans need a new law to prevent its
parole board, composed of nine civil-service workers, from
releasing dangerous criminals without notifying victims.
That nearly happened again a few weeks
ago, but a community activist surfing the Web spotted the pending
release of murderer, rapist and kidnapper Paul R. Brumfield.
This volunteer, using the White Pages, tracked down a victim's
family and also alerted The Dispatch, which ran a story. The
parole board backed down.
A young Roberta Francis with
her father Robert. Over forty years later Roberta's
father still carries this picture in his wallet.
"It was learned that there were
some interested parties who did not previously have an opportunity
to speak to the parole board," said JoEllen Smith, spokeswoman
for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.
"It was learned" not through
the efforts of the parole board, which should serve as the
last line of defense between criminals and their next victim,
but through the work of a vigilant citizen. Bret Vinocur, of
FindMissingKids.com, isn't paid for this dedicated work.
The Ohio Parole Board, whose members
were paid nearly $804,000 last year, makes life-and-death decisions,
but may lack relevant facts about an inmate's crime. These
telling details could be revealed in testimony from those who
have survived unspeakable horrors or by relatives of those
who did not.
Compounding the problem is that Ohio
has a two-tiered parole system. A 1996 law created a system
to notify victims and relatives when an inmate is being considered
for parole. Victims and relatives must sign up for such notifications.
Before that law mandated better victim services, no notification
list existed, and the state is not obligated to look for these
earlier victims. These victims could sign up for notification
but many aren't aware the option exists. This is a problem.
An attempt was made to fix it in 2007
when Rep. Steve Stivers, R-Columbus, then a member of the Ohio
Senate, introduced "Roberta's Law." This would have
required the state to attempt to notify victims of parole hearings.
But his bill died of neglect in the legislature.
It is time for the current General
Assembly to protect Ohioans and try a second time to enact "Roberta's
The bill is named for Roberta Francis,
a Columbus 15-year-old raped and beaten to death on her way
home from school in 1974. The state has released Roberta's
killer three times. All three times, he again attacked vulnerable
His last parole attempt failed only
after Vinocur tracked down Roberta's father, who pleaded with
the parole board.
The bill also sought to close a loophole
that allows some parolees to skirt Ohio's sex-offender registration
law. And the bill would have added transparency, requiring
the parole board to provide documentation, currently kept secret,
supporting its reasons for release.
Brumfield, who as a prisoner seized
hostages at Riverside Methodist Hospital in 1984 in an escape
attempt, will get a new parole hearing in March. This time,
his murder victim's family will get a say.
Past releases show the danger of what
happens when no victim is alerted to fight.
On Oct. 2, 1983, a Columbus woman asked
a neighbor to turn down his loud radio. Roddrick Suttles responded
by beating, binding, choking and raping her. He made a game
of her torture, offering her choices. He tried to electrocute
her, twice. That didn't work; he tried suffocation. That didn't
work; he slit her wrists and neck. That didn't work; he poured
kerosene in her mouth.
Left for dead, she managed to crawl
nude and bloody into the street to summon help.
Suttles drew a sentence of 37 to 100
years in prison. The Ohio Parole Board released him after 25
years, on Nov. 18; he lives at 1003 Oakwood Ave. No victim
came forward, and without Roberta's Law, the board wasn't required
to look for one.
Citizens who abuse information to threaten,
intimidate or harass registered sex offenders could potentially
end law enforcement's ability to do community notification.
Abuse of this information to threaten, intimidate or harass
registered sex offenders is illegal and violators' can be
prosecuted. This web site is for informational purposes only.
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or private, who reuses, publishes or communicates the information
available from this web site shall be solely liable and responsible
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improper or inaccurate disclosure arising from such reuse,
re-publication or communication, including but not limited
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