Sexual predator laws put in place to protect children

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The murder of an 8-year-old girl sparked outrage in the community and Tuesday it lead to action.

A series of measures that aim to protect the state's children and hopefully save lives was signed into law.

Cherish Perrywinkle's body was found in a wooded area off Broward Road in June of 2013. She was reportedly abducted, sexually assaulted and killed. Perrywinkle is considered the face of this new legislation. But sadly similar tragedy has occurred on the First Coast.

RELATED STORY: Trial for accused killer of Cherish Perrywinkle delayed

"Never in my wildest dreams or nightmares did I ever begin to think that such an evil could come in and flip my life upside down," said Diena Thompson. "But it did."

Standing at a podium at the Capital Tuesday afternoon, Diena Thompson poured over the years of darkness that lead to courage and now hope. Her 7-year-old daughter, Somer was abducted and killed while walking home from school in her Orange Park neighborhood in 2009.

Since then Thompson has been on a mission to protect other children.

"I miss Somer," said Thomspon. "I'll miss her until the day I take my last breath. But I feel hopeful for other children in the state of Florida."

The Governor's signing of four bills made official, stronger and stricter laws and penalties for sexual predators in the state of Florida.

RELATED STORY: Fla. Gov. strengthens state's laws against sex predators

"They have put a new part of the law in place which means after their incarceration they can now civilly commit these sex offenders to continue in an institution so they will never re-offend again," said Dr. Kaye Smith, an advocate for sexual assault victims.

She believes if these laws were put in place sooner more innocent lives could have been saved.

Donald Smith is accused of kidnapping, sexually assaulting and killing Perrywinkle. Smith is a registered sex offender who was released from jail in May of 2013. Perrywinkle was found dead one month later.

"What happened to Cherish Perrywinkle is unimaginable especially for any mother, any city, any community," said Smith.

"The people in charge of making our laws are now noticing this is something that we have to get a handle on and quickly before any other tragedies come about," said Thompson.

The new law requires sexual predators to be locked up for a longer period of time. It also requires that more sexual predators be committed for psychiatric review once they finish their criminal sentences, and allows law enforcement to keep a tighter watch on them.


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