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State must take action on statute of limitations Senate bill

As victims in Marietta are interviewed about encounters with a possible serial rapist when they were children, a bill that would have extended their ability to seek justice for those crimes seems to be dormant in Ohio.

Senate Bill 162, which would have eliminated the statute of limitations for rape, was introduced in 2019 and had hearings late in the year. Now, there is no word about its future. We hope it can be reintroduced in this new year and put into law. Seven other states have already removed the statue of limitations for felony sex crimes, including West Virginia, and it’s time for Ohio to do the same.

The case in Marietta is a perfect example of why. Richard Decker, 62, has been charged with rape in a case where he apparently started raping the victim when she was 5, with the assaults continuing on until she was 18. She’s now in her 30s. Police and prosecutors believe Decker had multiple other child victims and have already interviewed as many as 10.

What if some of these instances they dig up in this investigation reveal crimes that occurred more than 25 years ago, the current statute of limitations for rape? Should there be no chance for justice because the victims were too young, too scared, too traumatized to speak out when they were only children? Should Decker no longer be considered a threat to society because an arbitrary amount of time has passed?

There has been quite a push for this change in Ohio, with some of the state’s top leaders speaking out.

“Rape, in my opinion, is very much like murder and we shouldn’t be closing and locking the doors to the courthouse because of the passage of time,” said Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost.

Yost and former Ohio attorneys general Jim Petro, Betty Montgomery, Marc Dann, Nancy Rogers, Richard Cordray and Lee Fisher as well as Gov. Mike DeWine have supported removing the statute of limitations.

Aside from the benefit of time for the victim, there is also a practical component to this argument. Science has advanced and continues to advance and DNA and other physical evidence can may now be helpful in older cases.

For the victims of these heinous crimes, the impacts last forever. Let’s not let the perpetrators off the hook after 25– or any other number– of years.

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