Local crime could lead to tougher stalking laws - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Local crime could lead to tougher stalking laws

By Sylvia Hall – bio | email

PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - The images from one murder scene more than 20 years ago is seared into the memories of many Pascagoula natives.  The victim was Adrienne Klasky, murdered in broad daylight at a city intersection by her ex-husband Michael Graham.

"She knew who her aggressor was," said Rep. Brandon Jones, who authored the bill.  "There were many threats, many different episodes where the person was stalking her and intimidating her and putting her under fear."

Although Jones was still young when the crime took place, it prompted him to pen a bill toughening up laws against stalkers.  It passed through the legislature last week and awaits the Governor's signature.

"What we wanted to do with this bill is to give law enforcement a tool so they could go after people who were engaged in a course of conduct that could escalate very quickly," said Jones.

In recent years, those convicted of stalking have paid misdemeanor fines in Mississippi, sometimes over and over again.  The new bill makes it easier to convict stalkers, and could tack on felony charges to especially serious or repeated stalking cases.  Jackson County Sheriff Mike Byrd said it's possible some violent crimes waiting to happen might be prevented if the bill is signed into law.

Additionally, someone accused of stalking can be charged with "aggravated stalking" if one of three criteria is met.  They include stalking involving a weapon, stalking of a minor by a listed sex offender and stalking by anyone already convicted of stalking within the past seven years.

"What this bill will do is give law enforcement a little more teeth," said Byrd.  "And it's going to help the victims tremendously." 

Byrd said he believes the law itself would deter potential stalkers from committing the crime.

"With this new law, they're going to probably think twice before they do it again because if they get a felony, they're going to go to prison," said Byrd.  "It could help in prevention of other crimes."

"And we think it can save lives," said Jones.  "We don't have to be talking about another sad situation where someone knows what's coming, and law enforcement is helpless to stop it."

This stalking legislation is one of several of Jones' bills stemming from Klasky's murder.

"While that was one incident involving a lady over 20 years ago, it brought out a lot of deficiencies in Mississippi law," said Jones.  "And I think that it's our responsibility to learn from the past.  It's our responsibility to look at these snapshots and improve it."

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