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NJ Child Rape Law Extended To Murderers Of Under-18 Victims In Sex Crimes

Rosemarie D'Alessandro (Joan is in photo, right)
Rosemarie D'Alessandro (Joan is in photo, right) Photo Credit: D'Alessandro Family

HILLSDALE, N.J. -- It wasn't the public signing she'd hoped for, but Rosemarie D'Alessandro of Hillsdale was still thrilled to see Gov. Christie sign a law Friday mandating life imprisonment without parole for anyone convicted of murdering a minor under 18 during a sex crime.

“This day is a tremendous victory," D'Alessandro said after "Joan's Law" officially joined the state books.

"The law named after Joan will stop suffering and bring justice for families," D'Alessandro said. "They will never have to go through parole hearings and appeals like our family had to for through for years.”

The previous version of "Joan's Law" abolished parole in New Jersey for anyone who murdered 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.

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