Gov. Terry Branstad met Monday with families of five abducted or murdered Iowa children who now say they want Iowa to reinstate the death penalty for those crimes.
Families of Lyric Cook and Elizabeth Collins, along with parents of 1982 victim Johnny Gosch, 2005 victim Evelyn Miller, and 2006 victim Donnisha Hill, gathered with Republican Sen. Kent Sorenson in Des Moines to advocate for reinstating Iowa's death penalty.
Iowa has been without the death penalty for more than 40 years. The state carried out 46 executions before abolishing it in 1965.
The families who met with Branstad on Monday said in that time kidnapping has become more rampant in the state. They feel stronger penalties are needed across the board to protect children.
Drew and Heather Collins just said goodbye to their daughter Elizabeth, whom hunters found dead Dec. 5 after going missing in July, along with their niece Lyric Cook.
Now, they're on a mission -- along with families of other childhood abduction and murder victims -- to see Iowa enact tougher laws for offenders, including reinstating the death penalty.
"What we're going to do is we're going to pay it forward for the next people that have to go through this," said Drew Collins. "So we're going to fight. It may not pass this time, but we will fight, and we're not going to give up."
Adonnis Hill's daughter Donnisha was kidnapped in Waterloo and murdered in Illinois in 2006. Her killer was sentenced to death, but his sentence was reversed to life in prison.
"The fact they're still breathing, they're being well taken care of ... that bothers me," Hill said. "Yet I have those pictures of my daughter etched in my brain. The brutality of it is overwhelming."
Noreen Gosch, mother of 1982 kidnapping victim Johnny Gosch, believes the death penalty could help stop kidnappers from killing their victims in Iowa.
"There are criminals who do know the difference," she said. "Iowa is one state, (and it's) in the center of the Midwest states that touch us that all have the death penalty."
Drew Collins believes that gives offenders no reason to keep their victims alive.
"Well, there is no incentive for (a kidnapper) to keep them alive," he said. "The incentive is to cover the crime up and do life in prison: 'If I murder them, I'll just do life in prison, too.'"
Legislators know getting new death penalty legislation enacted will be an uphill battle, but say it's one worth fighting.
"These families reached out to me and I'm willing to help them," said Sen. Sorenson of Milo. "I believe the victims need somebody fighting for them here at the capital, and I believe their voices will scream loud."
Sen. Sorenson says he's planning to draft several pieces of legislation, and not only addressing the death penalty. He'd also like to see tougher penalties for sex offenders and measures to strengthen AMBER alerts -- all efforts, he said, are directly aimed at protecting children.
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