COLUMBUS – State senators representing Fulton County announced Monday the start of the legislative process to establish “Sierah’s Law,” a prospective violent offender registry in Ohio.
The proposed law is named for Sierah Joughin, a Metamora resident, Evergreen High School graduate, and University of Toledo student who was allegedly kidnapped and murdered last July by Delta resident James Worley. He has been charged with the crime under a 19-count indictment, and is currently jailed while awaiting trial later this year.
Senator Randy Gardner (R-Bowling Green) and Senator Cliff Hite (R-Findlay) are sponsoring the bill which is expected to be introduced and receive a first Senate committee hearing by the end of February.
The senators said the registry would likely be coordinated with Ohio’s existing sex offender registry and implemented at the county level under the auspices of the Attorney General’s office. The bill requires the Attorney General’s office to establish the registry by the end of 2017, ultimately determining felony convictions to be covered and implementation rules to be carried out by local law enforcement. Felonies included in the registry may include murder and first and second degree felonies such as attempted murder, voluntary manslaughter, kidnapping, abduction, and repeat violent offenders as defined in current law. The legislative process could amend the list.
“It’s time to begin legislative hearings and get the best public input we can,” Gardner, the Senate Majority Floor Leader, said. “We’ve been working with sheriffs and the Attorney General’s office for months, but it’s time to take the debate to the Senate committee room.”
Senator Hite agreed.
“We appreciate the support and suggestions from citizens and organizations since the tragedy of Sierah’s death,” Hite said. “Now the public deserves an open and candid discussion as we strive to establish the best registry possible that maximizes public safety and awareness.”
Support for the registry includes sheriffs, Attorney General Mike DeWine, and State Representatives Rob McColley (R-Napoleon) and Derek Merrin (R-Monclova Township), who also represent Fulton County. McColley is the House Assistant Majority Whip.
“I am pleased to be working with Senators Gardner and Hite, as well as sheriffs, prosecutors and judges to help create a violent offender registry for Ohio,” said DeWine. “A study done by Ohio State shows that a tiny fraction of Ohioans (0.91 percent), each with two or more felony convictions, were responsible for more than 60 percent of all violent crime in Ohio. Having a registry of violent offenders will provide Ohioans with the knowledge they need to know about who is living near them.”
Both Gardner and Hite acknowledged that without the support of local law enforcement, passage of the bill would be unlikely.
“The Buckeye State Sheriffs Association recognizes the hard work of Senators Gardner and Hite,” said Wood County Sheriff Mark Wasylyshyn, who serves as president of the state sheriffs association. “We appreciate being involved with this legislation from the beginning.
“Sheriffs across the state look forward to expanding our mission to register violent offenders and make Ohio safer,” Wasylyshyn added.
Law enforcement officials believe the new registry could help with faster response times when crimes are committed, in addition to providing more knowledge and awareness for the general public.
Only five states in the nation currently have violent offender registries, namely Indiana, Illinois, Montana, Kansas and Oklahoma.