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Sexual predator ballot proposal falls short

Washington state voters will not get a chance in November to decide whether certain sexual predators should face life in prison after a single offense.

Initiative 921 – also known as Dylan’s Law in honor of a North Idaho boy who was kidnapped, sexually assaulted and killed – failed to collect enough signatures for sponsors to turn them in for verification.

Sponsor Tracy Oetting said Friday evening the group had collected about 203,000 signatures, short of the nearly 225,000 valid signatures needed to qualify for the ballot.

“It’s a letdown, obviously,” Oetting said.

She blamed the failure on the lack of media coverage in Western Washington, which meant sponsors couldn’t attract enough volunteers to handle the petition drive during their final push.

“In Eastern Washington, we got covered all the time, but in Western Washington they pretty much ignored us,” she said.

The proposal was among several this spring aimed at sexual predators, and carried the toughest restrictions. After the first conviction for violent rape of a child, first-degree child molestation, kidnapping or several other sex crimes involving minors, a person would be sentenced to life without any possibility of parole.

It got its name, and some of its impetus, from Dylan Groene, who was kidnapped last year after his mother and other family members were killed in their North Idaho home. Dylan and his sister Shasta were taken to a remote mountain area, where he was sexually assaulted and eventually killed.

Shasta was later recovered in the company of Joseph Duncan, who is awaiting trial in Coeur d’Alene. Dylan and Shasta’s father, Steve Groene, joined the campaign for signatures.

Oetting said she would work with Steve Groene on an effort to get a similar “one-strike” law passed in the Idaho Legislature and may try again for a ballot initiative in Washington in 2007.

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