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In the Wake of Samantha's Murder

July 28, 2002

Re "Body Found Could Be Abducted O.C. Girl," July 17:

I just finished reading--and crying--about the death of Samantha Runnion. As the grandmother of a 3-year-old, I am saddened and outraged at the seemingly wanton sexual abuse of children.

From Catholic priests to sexual predators, where does it end? Perhaps we should be asking the question: Where does it begin?

I cannot remember a time in my life where sexual abuse of children has become such an integral part of our society. Is it that in previous times, the acts took place behind closed doors and were never mentioned? Or have the continued decline and breakdown of "family values" contributed to the surfacing of sick and dysfunctional members of society?

I, like others, have many questions and no answers. I have only pain for the families and victims, and outrage for the perpetrators.

Let me ask this question: Do you think we as a society will sit on the sidelines while you rob our youth of their innocence, when treating them as enticement?

As a mother, grandmother and member of society, I intend to do everything in my power to ensure that your sickness and evil is eradicated from the face of this earth.

Anne-Mary Dytewski

Oceanside

*

That this beautiful child was assaulted and murdered is beyond comprehension. There probably is not one of us who would not want to beat the perpetrator senseless given the opportunity. However, should we, as a society, shoulder some of the blame for this inhuman act against this child, and indeed all the other children who daily become victims of human predators? I think we have to.

None of us would hook a hose up to a sewer line and run it into our homes. However, that is exactly what we have done with all of the violence and sex on television. I can almost bet, with certainty, that the person who abducted Samantha Runnion had access to child porn, and when he got his fill of that, he went out for the real thing. I think this same scenario plays out on a daily basis in the United States and will continue unless we, as a society say no.

Pornography, in all forms, needs to be gone from our homes, movie theaters and computers. We will not tolerate what is intolerable--putting our children's lives in jeopardy because we have decided that, as a society, what we do in the privacy of our own homes is OK. What are we willing to sacrifice as a society to help to keep our children safe as possible?

Judi Roznos

Irvine

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Re "Lake Elsinore Man Arrested in Girl's Kidnap, Slaying," July 20:

Apparently Orange County Sheriff Michael Carona has decided to do away with due process and take on truth and justice single-handedly. His swaggering, self-congratulatory press conference, and the declaration of his absolute certainty of Alejandro Avila's guilt, decimate the notion of innocent until proved guilty.

Regardless of what the sheriff knows, his is but one opinion. Stating his opinion before a worldwide audience is a complete abuse of power and position. To listen to his oratory you would think the arrest was reason to rejoice, when in fact, it was many days too late.

R. Edmonson

Dana Point

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Samantha Runnion: found dead. Elizabeth Smart: missing. Daniel Spangle: missing since March, 1, 1989. Sabrina Aisenburg, Destiny Bailey, Brittney Beers, Jessica Cain, Amber Hagerman, Polly Klaas, Adam Walsh: all missing or dead.

We could go down the alphabet, listing thousands more. Why? Because, in the words of lawyer and child advocate Andrew Vachss, "We, as a society, tolerate predators of our own species."

Vachss has written that predators "like what they do ... do it because they want to, and ... will continue to do it until incapacitated," and that "We need to recognize that child pornography is not 'free speech'--it is a photograph of a crime, a felony subject to prosecution in all 50 states."

His suggestions to keep children safe:

* Increase the penalties for all crimes aimed at children.

* Change the criminal justice system's labeling of predatory behavior from a nonviolent to a violent crime.

* Deter enablers (anyone who fails to protect a child from abuse) by hitting them in the pocketbook.

* Take nonviolent offenders out of prison and fill the vacancies with child-sex predators.

Ask your elected state officials how many more children will have to die before we change our laws to protect them.

Adrienne Potter

Sherry Stanfill

Jamie Frye

Temecula

*

Most Californians of voting age have probably heard of Megan's Law, but know little about it. The parents of 7-year-old Megan Kanka of New Jersey were not aware that their neighbor was a twice-convicted sex offender until he was charged with the rape and murder of their daughter, Megan. The parents of 4-year-old My Ly Nghiem of Binghamton, N.Y., didn't know that a three-time convicted sex offender lived and worked in their building until he was charged with the rape and murder of their daughter. These crimes prompted Megan's Law, which mandates the release of information necessary to protect the public from high-risk sex offenders.

Although convicted sex offenders are required to register in California, the state is one of nine that does not provide citizens with Internet access to help determine whether child sex offenders live in their neighborhoods. If I want to know where sex offenders live, I am required to go to a police station or the sheriff's office to get the information.

As a supposedly progressive state, we are one of the most backward when it comes to providing a safety net for our children. We need to change that. We need to tell our state legislators, mayors and city council members that we want changes in the administration of Megan's Law. Together we can make a difference.

Lisa Salan

Orange

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