LETTER Bill Expanding Scope of ‘Joan’s Law’ for Murdering a Minor Gets Panel Approval

The Assembly Judiciary Committee today advanced legislation, sponsored by Republicans Assemblyman Robert Auth and Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi, requiring life imprisonment without parole for molesting and killing a child under age 18.


“We don’t have the death penalty in New Jersey. Life without parole is the worst sentence we can require for these sexual predators, and it is more than warranted for horrific crimes against minors” said Auth (R – Bergen).  “This is a crack-down on the most despicable creatures in our society.”


The bill (A373) expands the scope of Joan’s law, which denies parole to anyone serving a life sentence for molesting and killing a child under age 14. The legislation protects all minors, increasing the age threshold to 18.


Joan D’Alessandro was seven years old when she disappeared after delivering her last two boxes of Girl Scout cookies.  He body was found three days later on Easter Sunday. A neighbor pled guilty to first-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison, which at the time made him eligible for parole after 14 years.


“For me, this is personal. This horrific crime happened in the district I represent, and the grief and pain was felt throughout the entire community,” said Auth, who was a junior fireman when Joan D’Alessandro went missing. He recalls helping with the desperate search for the child.  “Predators should never be allowed back on our neighborhood streets,” said Auth.


Rosemarie D’Alessandro, Joan’s mother, dedicated her life to promoting harsh penalties for similar crimes.  She has lobbied for – and collected thousands of signatures on a petition in support of – this bill, which also had been approved by the Judiciary Committee in the previous legislative session.


“We’re sending a message: If you prey on a minor, there is no second chance. The young are the most innocent and most susceptible targets, and protecting must always be the priority,” said Schepisi (R – Bergen). “On behalf of the D’Alessandro family and their multi-decade journey to tighten laws to protect our children, I am proud to be a sponsor of a bill which may represent a final step in ensuring these protections.”