DOA: Megan’s Law for the 21st Century


John Gardner, the registered sex offender now serving a life sentence for killing Chelsea King and Amber Dubois, last logged into his MySpace account on Feb.24, 2010, the day before he murdered Chelsea King. An email account linked to Gardner’s profile was registered with MySpace; however the social networking website did not know who he was or what he had done, so they were unable to implement their zero tolerance policy toward registered sex offenders. This is because Megan’s Law does not require California’s 123,821 registered sex offenders to submit email addresses or other forms of Internet identification.
Megan’s Law is based on the premise that convicted sex offenders pose a threat to society and that the public deserves to know when they are in the community. Since Megan’s Law was signed into law and implemented in 1996, all 50-states have registered individuals convicted of felony sex crimes. Law enforcement collects personal, private and identifying information from the registered offenders. They then release some of that information to the public so that we can use it to protect ourselves from known threats in our neighborhoods. Law enforcement maintains all of the information collected from registered sex offenders in secure databases so that it can be used for investigative purposes.
This system served society well until communities expanded beyond our streets and neighborhoods to include Internet based social networking sites. Until social networking websites like Facebook and MySpace have an effective mechanism to monitor registered sex offenders they will continue to exploit the Internet’s anonymity and troll for victims in online communities.

California Senate Bill 57 (SB-57) would have updated Megan’s Law by requiring registered sex offenders to provide law enforcement with their email addresses and other Internet identifiers. Social networking websites would then be able to use that information to monitor or scrub registered sex offender profiles from their online communities.

SB-57 is based on legislation passed in New York in 2008. The Electronic Securing and Targeting of Online Predators Act (e-STOP), which was sponsored by New York Governor, then Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, has thus far successfully removed more than 24,000 social networking profiles belonging to registered sex offenders. SB 57 is also consistent with the federal KIDS Act of 2008, which requires sex offenders to provide email addresses as part of the state regulations.

Unfortunately, this important legislation was placed on the suspense file in the Assembly Committee on Appropriations where it died. The official reason that SB-57 was placed on suspense is that it was thought to be too costly for California to administer. However, in reality SB-57 only required a new form field to be entered onto an existing database. And, compared to the millions of children who would have been protected from the lurid advances of Internet predators like John Gardner who use social networking sites, minor administrative costs are inconsequential.

As has been demonstrated so many times in the past few years, government has failed us yet again. The fate of SB-57 was in the hands of Assembly Committee on Appropriations Chairman Felipe Fuentes (D-San Fernando Valley). Chairman Fuentes had the power to remove SB-57 from the suspense file and put it to the committee for a vote, where it surely would have passed, yet he failed to do so.

We have lost our opportunity to drag Megan’s Law into the 21st Century. Instead children who use social networking sites remain at risk of being victimized by known sexual predators. Our elected leaders have made a stark choice. The safety of California’s children is not a priority.

48 Hours Mystery…or Travesty?

Many were looking forward to the 48 Hours Mystery episode that featured the family of Amber Dubois.  We knew and trusted the producer, having worked closely with her over the course of nearly two-years.  Good things had resulted from the brutal kidnap and murder of 14-year old Amber at the hands of the sexually sadistic psychopath John Gardner. Friendships had been forged, legislation written and passed, and new understandings about the nature of evil and the shortcomings of California’s criminal justice system had been exposed. Why then, did 48 Hours focus on false accusations, bogus aspects of the investigation, and providing a bully pulpit to a self proclaimed monster?

Amber Dubois disappeared without a trace on her way to Escondido High School on the morning of February 13, 2009. Within 2 weeks the KlaasKids Foundation and Laura Recovery Center sent representatives to the San Diego suburb to organize a volunteer search and rescue effort. We worked for and with Amber’s family for more than a year, until her remains were recovered. KlaasKids S&R Director Brad Dennis facilitated Amber’s funeral and I hosted her memorial service.

48 Hours Mystery focused much attention on Amber’s step-father Dave Cave as a possible suspect. As Dave said during the program they did it because, “That is where the statistics lead.” He withstood multiple interrogations and polygraphs, yet he was always there for Amber. When Amber’s mother Carrie moved out of his house he held his head high and covered her back. When friends and family suspected that he was involved he “manned-up” and worked to bring her home.  48 Hours took a tabloid approach to Dave’s travails and chose to portray him in a less than flattering light, but unlike 48-Hours, who grovels on the floor looking for kernels of tragedy that they can exploit for personal gain, Dave Cave stands tall in my eyes.

KlaasKids and the Laura Recovery Center search and rescue teams have worked together numerous times to successfully recover missing children.  Neither organization charges for that service, nor do we fundraise once we have arrived at ground zero. Our complete focus is upon working with law enforcement and in this case helping Amber’s family to recover their missing child. Therefore, I was shocked that 48 Hours chose to ignore our contribution and instead focus upon a live-scent mercenary K-9 team that supposedly followed Amber’s 8-month old scent 50-miles along a Southern California freeway. Anybody with any S&R experience knows full well that even under optimal conditions scent eventually dies. Therefore it is ludicrous to think that a paid K-9 team followed Amber’s scent along a road used by hundreds of thousands of vehicles per day after week after month. The television show notes that the dogs hit upon a spot a mile away from Amber’s still undiscovered remains. They forgot to mention that in terms of search and rescue a mile might as well be 10,000 miles and that the route the dogs followed was entirely different that the one Amber and her killer traveled on the day that he raped and murdered her.

Finally, 48 Hours provided a national, primetime television audience to the monster who killed Amber Dubois and Chelsea King. Both families thought that they were done with him, that he would be forgotten and die in prison. Instead they watched him opine about his potential victimization behind bars. They saw his face and heard his voice. The producer said that the interview did a “Great job illustrating that these predators live among us and they don’t look like Charles Manson.  They look like average Joe’s.” Really, that’s the best you can come up with? The Dubois and King families were re-victimized by a tabloid television program devoid of human decency.

Watching Gardner on primetime television reminded me of my own similar experience. In the days prior to the sentencing of the goon who killed and murdered my Polly, I received a phone call from Geraldo Rivera. He told me that he had been offered an opportunity to interview the killer on primetime TV. He said that he would take the killer down and expose him for the piece of shit that he really was. Then he said that he would only do so with my permission. I asked him not to do the interview as the thought of that monster ever again appearing in public made me physically recoil. Geraldo honored my wish, but two days later another reporter aired the interview on Hard Copy! I correctly accused her of using Polly’s tragedy to further her own career. I told her that any person convicted of raping and murdering children deserved to be locked away and forgotten, not provided with a national television audience. I told her that she, just like 48 Hours Mystery, was nothing more than a tabloid whore!!!

I am mystified and embarrassed by third rate journalism that purports to do anything more than entertain at the expense of truth, clarity and useful information. 48 Hours cherry pick facts in order to portray real life tragedies as nothing more than twisted, grotesque fantasies that re-victimize people who have already been victimized enough.