On two-year anniversary of teen’s disappearance, lawmaker proposes bills to better protect kids

SAN DIEGO (CNS) – On the anniversary of an Escondido teen's disappearance, a state lawmaker Monday unveiled three bills aimed at making the public aware when a convicted sex offender moves into a neighborhood and closing loopholes that might allow them to slip through the cracks.

Assemblyman Paul Cook, R-Beaumont, introduced the measures in memory of 14-year-old Amber Dubois, who was killed by convicted child molester John Albert Gardner III exactly two years ago.

Cook was flanked by Sen. Tom Berryhill, R-Modesto, and Amber's father, Maurice Dubois, who founded the More Kids foundation not long after his daughter's death. The foundation provided support in drafting the assemblyman's proposals.

“Protecting our children is the most important issue that I have been able to work on in my time in Sacramento,” Cook said. “As a parent, I believe these bills will be pivotal in ensuring the safety and protection of our children.”

One measure would require law enforcement to provide written notification to members of a community, daycare operators and schools when a convicted sex offender is living within 1,000 feet of them. The notifications would be sent out no more than five days after the ex-con establishes residence.

A second bill proposes a closer examination of people convicted of sex crimes outside the state of California to determine whether they need to register as sex offenders after moving into the Golden State.

According to Cook, because laws vary by state, not all people with out- of-state sex convictions are required to register because of the degree of the offense. Under the lawmaker's bill, the California Department of Justice would be required to investigate each case in depth.

Under Penal Code section 290, anyone convicted of a sexual offense in California must register their address with law enforcement and notify authorities when they move.

Cook's third proposal would require sex offenders to carry a driver's license or identification card bearing a special mark at all times. The mark, which would be detectable only by law enforcement, would mainly apply to violent offenders and those convicted of sex crimes against children.

Last year, Cook and Assemblyman Pedro Nava, D-Santa Barbara, sponsored several measures approved by the Legislature and signed by the governor to bolster law enforcement resources during missing persons investigations. The bills were among a raft of measures advanced in memory of Amber and 17-year-old Chelsea King of Poway, who was also killed by Gardner.

He confessed to the girls' killings and was sentenced last May to three consecutive life terms without parole.

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