A loophole in the sex offender law might have put two young girls in harms way. Tuesday, News 4 exposed the problem, and Wednesday at least one lawmaker is promising to do something to correct it.
The action stems from new charges against a convicted sex offender who didn't have to register because he committed the original crime when he was underage.
Michael Church, 22, is in jail, accused of trying to lure two young girls to his East Alton home. He's been convicted of a sex crime before, but that information is only available to police -- not the public -- because Church did it while underage. That's the sticking point tonight, and something both lawmakers and parents want to change.
She's a mom on a mission. Marie is going door to door in East Alton, alerting neighbors to a convicted sex offender living up the street. Michael Church is accused of trying to lure her little girls away from their yard.
"My whole family is emotionally and mentally affected by this," Marie says. We're not using her last name to protect the identity of her little girls. "They had trust in being in their own yard. How do you regain that once someone breaks that barrier?"
She wants to expose all sex offenders by changing the law, so that regardless of age, or when the crime was committed, parents can know about it.
We did some digging and discovered a similar law already on the books in Wisconsin. It's called Amie's Law, which was signed in 2005 after a juvenile convict re-offended as an adult. Now --Wisconsin keeps a public record of juvenile sex offenders.
But counselors warn that making crimes committed as children public could hurt a young offenders chance at having a normal life. Jim Moll counsels sex offenders. He says those who are able to build real relationships, get a job and create a purpose in life have the best chance at rehabilitation.
"So if he can't get a job, go to school or be a real part of that community, are we really harming community by publicizing it (on a registry)?" Moll asks.
Moll supports a tier system for juvenile sex offenders -- only making those most likely to re-offend public. He says juveniles are the least likely to re-offend so long as they have proper treatment.
"You want the community, the system, even the offenders to know the level of intensity of supervision, treatment and consequences for those people," Moll says.
And that now has the attention of state lawmakers.
"There are situations that I think could warrant extra consideration," Illinois State Representative Dan Beiser, (D) - Alton, says. "I have also talked to my staff in Springfield to begin research on what other states may be doing. We're in the preliminary stages."
Beiser says he was unaware of the loophole until News 4 brought it to his attention. Now, he has set up a meeting with Marie to begin working on a potential change to state law.