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Mark Lunsford stood in front of hundreds of bikers, more people than live in the town of Freeport on the outskirts of Sacramento. Since February of 2005 he has served as the catalyst to answer a mission call from his daughter, from her grave. Jessica Lunsford, a third-grade Homosassa Springs, Fla. girl was ripped from her bedroom in the night by John Evander Couey. He raped her, kept her in his closet for weeks and buried her alive.
"Today is Jessie's 12th birthday," Mark Lunsford said Saturday.
A bike run to raise awareness and revenue for the purpose of protecting children from pedophiles took place at the Moon River Inn.
The first ride for Jessica Lunsford began as a search for his missing daughter, Mark Lunsford explained. An area bike club came to him and arranged it. "If you want to help a child and you don't know what to do, ask a biker," he said.
- Like Bikers are the smartest most educated about child sexual abuse. Most of them are drunks and drug users, from what I've seen in the past.
Before the ride took place her body was found underground across from her home, a scene that extends so far beyond the parameters of a parent's most horrific nightmare.
The ride took place anyway, the focus changed from a search to mission to save other children. Mark Lunsford is traveling across the country to change legislation. The Florida ride this year boasted more than 4,200 participants.
In Freeport Mark Lunsford poses the question to solemn crowd, "Who has it worse, the child who dies or the one who survives?" He dries tears from his cheeks and says "it's real hard to read when you're crying."
A black car pulls up to the Inn. Debra Bowen, state senator, walks up to Mark Lunsford and hugs him. He gives Bowen a baseball cap that has "Jessie's Riders" embossed on it. There's purple dolphins on the back of it, because Jessica Lunsford loved dolphins and her favorite color was purple. The distance and difference between biker and politician close. She wasn't asked to come to speak, she was simply compelled to do it. They were joined on stage by Mike Jimenez, the president of the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, the presenting sponsors of Jessie's Ride, and contributors of a 2007 Springer Softail, the prize for the raffle. Mark Lunsford presented Jimenez with a black leather vest embossed with the ride patch which read, "Save a child, hang a pedophile."
- Picture it if you can.... 1939 Germany. It was a warm spring day and the blue birds were singing as a soft, warm breeze gently tussled the daisies in the lush green fields on the outskirts of Berlin. Heinrich, a young good looking man of strong German stock, was enjoying the tranquility of this place before he had to return to his office and finally finish "The Project". He had been struggling with the proper tag line for weeks and had finally settled on "Save the Rhineland, Kill a Jew!" as the one he would have embossed on the official patch for the new SS division that he was tasked with managing. Satisfied that he had chosen the correct path, he started down the path that would take him back to his office. There was much work to be done, and Heinrich was eager to begin.
The ride was put together by Neil Dixon, 23, of Sacramento. Dixon met Mark Lunsford when he came to California to discuss legislation with Senator George Runner and Assemblywoman Sharon Runner who co-authored Jessica's Law. Dixon's fiance was employed by the Runners. Dixon and Mark Lunsford became fast friends and he instantly adopted the cause. Dixon's community outreach and promotions brought food donations, room donations, live music and prizes, all in the name of saving children from the terror that Jessica Lunsford fell victim to.
Bikers Against Child Abuse (Story, Story) had a representative take the stage and read Jessica Lunsford's favorite Bible verse to begin the prayer. Parent's shared stories of their own tragedies, which brought them to the event. Residents of Lake County were in attendance in support of the cause.
The premise of the Jessica Marie Lunsford Foundation is to reach like-minded voters through a movement called Jessie's Angels, dedicated to carrying a flame for the fallen children who became victims. The "Angels" hold rallies, pass out printed material, participate in parades, hold meetings and establish safe homes.
According to state of California statistics there are 63,000 registered sex offenders in the state, of those one in four is missing.
Mark Lunsford could have chosen to drown in depression, anyone would understand. Instead he decided to be the hero that his daughter always thought he was.
- And yet when she was alive, he was nowhere to be found. And now he's a rich man because of his daughters death. That, IMO, is sick!
Some form of Jessica's Law has passed in 33 states to date.
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Per user comments, this is the Jimenez article mentioned.
Prison union chief: Jessica's law a "bad idea;" Angelides' message "hasn't taken hold."
Going soft on crime?
After his organization gave $25,000 to the campaign for Prop. 83, or Jessica's Law, the head of the state prison guards union now says he plans to vote against the initiative.
Speaking at a Capitol hearing on the mess that is California's prison system, Mike Jimenez had some pretty harsh words for an initiative that will have a direct effect on his membership. Jimenez said he thought the portion of the initiative that would prohibit sex offenders from living near schools or parks would create a wave of homeless sex offenders that will be harder to account keep track of.
He also suggested that the state was not ready to implement another aspect of the initiative that would require many sex offenders to wear Global Positioning Satellite devices for the rest of their lives. The state's parole system -- parolee agents are members of the prison guards union -- has been using GPS systems, but only in pilot programs.
After the hearing, Jimenez said his group gave money to the campaign while they were gathering signatures but had hoped the initiative would trigger a debate in the Legislature about prison reform that never really happened. He now believes that parole agents are going to be stuck trying to find places for sex offenders to live after the law passes and that the initiative would not make children safer as its promoters contend.
"It's a bad idea," he said.
The union has typically helped support any initiative that toughened criminal sentences. They were very active in 2004 in defeating an initiative that would have weakened the state's three strikes law.
Jimenez seems to be in the minority on this one -- Jessica's Law looks like slam dunk on election day, according to every poll taken this year.
By the way, in yet another bit of bad news for gubernatorial candidate Phil Angelides, Jimenez said his group may use about $3 million worth of advertising time they have reserved leading up to the election on down ballot races instead of for Angelides.
He said the union, which has endorsed Angelides and has been a big player in past gubernatorial races, is looking at other options because Angelides' "message hasn't taken hold" and it might be more valuable to spend the money on a tighter race. The move isn't all that surprising; the union had already released some of the ad time it had reserved.
"Californians' seem to be smitten with this governor," Jimenez noted.