The New Jersey Assembly has unanimously approved legislation that calls for life imprisonment without parole for the murder of anyone under the age of 18 during commission of a sex crime.
The measure expands what's known as Joan's Law, named for a 7-year-old Hillsdale girl who was sexually assaulted and killed by a neighbor in 1973.
Her mother, Rosemarie D'Alessandro, says the denial of parole eligibility now applies to such crimes involving victims under 14.
"It wasn't taking care of the youth that in many ways are even more vulnerable than little kids because 14-years-old according to the Office of Justice in Washington is the age for girls that perpetrators are going to go after."
Assemblyman Robert Auth is a co-sponsor of the legislation.
"If someone is 17 years old, a high school student, and is picked up by somebody and raped and murdered, why in heaven's name wouldn't they be covered under that law? Why should their family have to through the constant traveling to a parole board to try to keep the perpetrator in jail?"
Auth says he’s not sure how many offenders might be affected by expanding the law.
“There will be no cases that it applies to if we’re all lucky. But whether it’s one, five, a hundred, the fact that any family who has suffered a horrible loss has to be put through that, that’s enough for me. I don’t think that anybody should have to be put through that.”
The bill is still awaiting action in the state Senate.