COLUMBUS -- The mother and uncle of a northwest Ohio college student who was murdered last year while bicycling near her home urged lawmakers March 14 to create a registry of convicted violent offenders, for use by law enforcement investigating comparable crimes.
SB 67 is titled "Sierah's Law," in memory of Sierah Joughin, who was kidnapped and killed in Fulton County. The man indicted for the crime lived nearby and was convicted and served time in prison for attacking and kidnapping another woman more than 25 years ago.
"These violent offenders are already in our communities, living amongst our children and near our schools," Sheila Vaculik, Joughin's mother, told members of the Ohio Senate's Judiciary Committee Tuesday. "Registering for a crime you consciously committed just makes you accountable for your actions. By simply changing legislation to force convicted violent criminals to register, we can save lives. We can equip law enforcement with the tools they need to identify predators within those crucial moments when a crisis occurs. We can change the outcome of other violent crimes. We can spare others the pain my family has endured. We can honor Sierah and her life."
SB 67 would require the attorney general to establish a registry of violent offenders, similar to the listing of sex offenders that is already in place. The bill specifies a handful of offenses that would be covered, including aggravated murder, voluntary manslaughter, kidnapping and abduction.
Wood County Sheriff Mark Wasylyshyn supports the proposal, telling members of the Judiciary Committee Tuesday that individuals convicted of violent crimes sometimes commit similar offenses.
"SB 67 would allow us to know who has those violent tendencies with the hope we could protect our communities," he said. "Many people do not realize that sheriffs and other local law enforcement have no registry or data base to know where felons live in their counties."
Howard Ice, Joughin's uncle, added that a violent offender registry "would help law enforcement identify and gather information that could potentially expedite those crucial hours of a missing [or] abducted person. This law would, with no question, assist law enforcement in protecting and safeguarding the citizens of Ohio."
Would such a registry have saved its namesake? Vaculik said that's a question that will continue to haunt her.
"I will never know the answer to that question, and that is the subject of my nightmares," she said.
She added, "I am only asking that this be considered so the ending may be different for the next family. Adding violent offenders to a registry that is already in place and making a difference just seems right. I can't help but wonder if Sierah's story would have had a much different ending if the police would have had access to such a registry that early Wednesday morning in July 2016."
Marc Kovac covers the Ohio Statehouse for Gatehouse Media. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.