HILLSDALE, N.J. -- Rosemarie D'Alessandro of Hillsdale has only one more hurdle to clear to see New Jersey mandate life without parole for anyone convicted of murdering a minor under 18 during a sex crime: Gov. Christie's desk.
Following Thursday's adoption by the state Senate of "Joan's Law" -- already approved by the Assembly -- D'Alessandro said she's hoping the governor stages a public signing.
"It would bring attention to the important issue of child safety and would be great way to cap a 7-year effort, in which thousands of citizens made their voice heard," she told Daily Voice.
As the 20-year-old law currently stands, parole isn't available in New Jersey for anyone who murders a minor 14 years or younger.
The measure is named for D'Alessandro's daughter, Joan, who was raped and murdered by a neighbor -- former high school science teacher Joseph McGowan -- while selling Girl Scout Cookies on April 19, 1973 (Holy Thursday).
The youngster had come to McGowan’s home, three doors down, looking to sell her last two boxes of cookies.
Her murder prompted the passage of Joan’s Law, signed by Gov. Christie Whitman in 1997, in New Jersey and by President Clinton nationally in 1998.
Because it was adopted after McGowan was sentenced, the law doesn’t apply to him. But he remains in prison for his crimes, having repeatedly been denied parole – thanks in large part to D’Alessandro’s tireless advocacy.
D'Alessandro worked just as hard this time to get legislative approval for the revision -- prompting supporters to write letters, sign petitions and make phone calls -- as she did in getting the original law passed.
“Joan's life and death inspired a movement to keep her killer in prison and spurred law changes,” she told Daily Voice. “We're looking forward to it happening again.”
D'Alessandro urged residents to call the governor's office at (609) 292-6000 or email email@example.com and request a public signing.