This has been a trying week. I seem to have taken on the worst of the worst -- storywise.
It began with a story about a man convicted of murdering a 23-month-old child. He is in jail, but is going before a parole board in September to state his case and ask for executive clemency. I went back through old copies of the newspaper and to different places on the Internet to read about why a Fulton County jury convicted him of this crime and sent him to prison for the rest of his life. The reports were chilling. Because of what I read I will write a letter to the parole board and ask them to leave him where he is.
The next one is not a story I will write; Chris Murphy will have this task. But, in order to give her a break to get some weekly writing done, I took her place in a courtroom at Ash Flat on Friday to listen to the trial of a man accused of double homicide; murders that took place almost 20 years ago. On one side of the courtroom sat several family members of the two who were murdered. On the other side were four people; they were there to support the man charged with this crime. This is a trial with no winners. When it's over there will still be two people dead and there will still be children who grew up not knowing the love of a parent. It was hard to sit and listen as details about the murder were presented to the jury.
The last story is one that has caused me to lose sleep. I was up prowling the house at 3 a.m. with this story on my mind. It was about sex offenders - 46 of them - who live in Fulton County.
Unknown until Friday evening, one of these offenders was being featured in our newspapers. It was then that I fully realized how easy it is for these offenders to blend into society -- and that was a scary revelation.
This is a problem in all our local counties and I'm glad we are finally able to tell Fulton County residents who these offenders are and where they live. Hopefully, this will help us all to become even more watchful for our children's sake. In the weeks ahead we hope to do the same for Sharp and Izard counties. We are also researching the story for Oregon County, Missouri.
I have heard the argument that these offenders have paid their debt to society through a prison sentence. I don't agree with that argument. As long as they are listed as sexual offenders they are still paying their debt. And, thank God for that. I'm not sure that this system is the right punishment for Level 1 and 2 offenders, but I think the Level 3 offenders and the Level 4 sexual predators need to be watched closely for the rest of their life.
Sex offenders who are classified as Level 3 are considered to be at a high risk to repeat the act that sent them to prison in the first place. Because of this, I want to know who they are (all 22 of them) and I want them to stay away from my grandchildren.
Level 4 offenders have committed acts that are so heinous they are not considered offenders -- they are classified as sexual predators. Not someone I want near me or my family.
As this week's paper goes to press, I feel drained. I would much rather focus on the good in our area (and there is so much more good than bad) then these stories about humans at their worst. I guess that's what my job is all about; but it sure makes me appreciate the good stories even more.
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