Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

April 2, 2013

Proposed law is designed to protect children from violent sex offenders

Ben Tinsley
Jacksonville Daily Progress

AUSTIN — Cherokee County Court At Law Judge Craig Fletcher and his wife, Amy, are working closely with State Rep. Travis Clardy to work a bill through the Texas Legislature they say could greatly tighten laws around violent child sex offenders.

The Fletchers are expected to testify before the Texas House of Represent-atives' Criminal Juris-prudence Committee today regarding the proposed “Justin M. Bloxom Bill.”

Versions of this bill already have passed through the respective Louisiana and Oklahoma legislatures.

It is named after 12-year-old Justin Bloxom – Amy Fletcher's son and Judge Fletcher's stepson –  who allegedly was murdered by a sex offender on March 30, 2010.  

Justin apparently was lured away from the safety of a house with deceptive texts and a leased taxi cab by someone who then choked him to death, reports show.

Authorities said the offender believed to have killed him already had been convicted twice for similar crimes.

The “Justin Bill,” therefore, targets repeat violent sexual offenders.

Anyone convicted a second time of kidnapping and sexually assaulting a child under 13, would automatically face a life sentence.

“This isn't 'three strikes, you're out!' It's two strikes,” elaborated Clardy, R-Nacogdoches.

Such offenders also would be prohibited by law from becoming licensed or vetted to drive a taxi cab, limo,  bus, or to work  in any capacity in an amusement park.

Clardy said he believes the bill is very focused and protects a group of people who really need to be helped.

“They are so vulnerable,” he said. “We need to do whatever we can to help them.”

The judge agreed.

“People think of a cab as a safe haven,” he said. “When people drink too much they just immediately call a cab. Many people think it's completely safe to get into a cab. But this man was able to use his cab on a kid like a weapon. We really need to change this.”

It was determined after Justin's body was found in a wooded area that the youth died of asphyxiation.

The man accused of slaying the 12-year-old is on trial for his life, charged with first degree murder and kidnapping in Louis-iana, officials said.

The trial is expected to begin June, officials said.

Judge Fletcher  said there will be a big Cherokee County presence at today's Austin hearing.

“I will be there, Judge (Bascom) Bentley will be there, and (County) Judge  (Chris)  Davis will be there,” he said. “There are quite a few people from Cherokee County supporting this bill.”

 Assuming it is passed by this committee, the bill should move forward to a vote by the house.

If it passes there, it is forwarded to the senate.

If all goes well there, ultimately the bill makes its way to the governor's desk to be signed.

But while today is hoped to be one of triumph and the possible forward movement of a proposed law, it it also is expected to be an incredibly emotional  day for members of Justin's family, dredging up the memories of the young man's slaying.

But there are those who don't mind the memories, good or bad, the Facebook page dubbed “Justice For Justin Bloxom” had 20,923 “likes” and a plethora of comments celebrating the life of the young murder victim.

There was one person in particular celebrating Justin's life more than anyone else.

“I never want him to be forgotten,” Justin's mother posted.