FATAL LOOPHOLE LED TO MURDER (Victim’s family, advocates call on lawmakers to place offenders, including those convicted prior to 1996’s Megan’s Law, on the Internet)

Shortly after Faye Cohn, 29, of Schenectady, began dating James Ross, 43, formerly of Central Islip, in 2002, she had heard a rumor that he was a convicted sex offender.  People were telling her to leave him alone.  Her family said that she did check to state's sex offender registry Web site and did not find his name.  That calmed her fears.  But last month, Ross, who had been convicted of a 1977 first degree rape as well as violent crimes in Suffolk and Brooklyn, stabbed Cohn to death in a jealous rage at her home with five of her seven children around because she broke up with him and began dating someone else.  

Ross is now charged with second degree murder and Cohn's family is calling on Governor George Pataki to conduct hearings to make available the names of sex offenders like Ross, which a court injunction shields from the public eye.  

Cohn's mother, Patricia Meunier, spoke at an Albany news conference yesterday, flanked by four daughters and Laura Ahearn, executive director of Stony Brook-based Parents for Megan's Law, which monitors state compliance with the law requiring authorities to say where sex offenders live.  Meunier said, It was a senseless murder at the hands of a man who to our correctional system was a Level 3 sex offender.  It's a shame that in this day and age when laws are passed and not followed through on - because of money - that my daughter wasn't able to access the information that she was entitled to know and yet, because of that, was brutally murdered.  

There are 18,000 registered sex offenders in NYS, but only Level 3 offenders, those in which are considered the most dangerous and the most likely to reoffend, are on the state's Web site, criminaljustice.state.ny.us/nsor/index.htm.  A May 1998 injunction bars the posting of 7,900 sex offenders, like Ross, who were convicted before Megan's Law took effect on January 21, 1996.

Ahearn said, A decision was made by someone or a small group of people not to make these hearings a priority, and now Faye Cohn is dead.  Ahearn said the hearings have not been held because they would be too expensive.  She said, The problem is that Level Threes are being characterized as Level Ones and police can't notify and warn us like they should have warned Faye Cohn.

Through his spokesman, in a statement, Pataki supports pending legislation that would place all registered sex offenders on the Internet.  

(New York)