The girl's school picture - an affable smile, blue-gray eyes a little weary - was flashed on TV news across the state and across the country. More than 3,000 people pushed aside their holiday plans to spend Christmas Day searching for the child. Miracles had happened before on this day and could happen again, one woman told a reporter.
That night, in a heavy rain, Wicomico County Sheriff Mike Lewis announced that the girl's body had been found in a field near the Delaware border.
A grand jury quickly indicted Leggs on charges of burglary and kidnapping, and, after authorities' methodical investigation, added murder and sex offense charges last week.
"No one is more outraged than I am that this man was still walking the streets," said Ruark, the Wicomico state's attorney who plans to personally prosecute Leggs.
"I can't think of a case that more plainly calls out for the death penalty," Ruark said.
Baltimore Sun reporters Julie Bykowicz and Arthur Hirsch contributed to this article.
What fixes have been proposed?
The O'Malley administration is proposing several new measures:
•Reconstituting and strengthening the Sexual Offenders Advisory Board.
•Lifetime supervision for anyone convicted of rape or attempted rape, repeat offenders and those convicted of sexual abuse of a minor, among other offenses. That supervision, which could include GPS monitoring, would apply after any sentence or probation for the underlying crime. A pre-sentence investigation would occur. A violation of that supervision would result in more prison time without early release for good behavior.
•Bringing the state into compliance with the federal Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act, also known as the Adam Walsh Act of 2006, by making registration requirements retroactive; reclassifying sex offense categories; and requiring juveniles to publicly register as a sex offender if convicted as an adult, or if convicted of a serious offense in juvenile court and at least age 14.
•Giving judges authority to require sex offender registration for a person convicted of child pornography possession or indecent exposure in the presence of a minor.
•Expanding the categories of people required to have state and federal background checks. It would include checks on private employees running recreation centers, plus home health and residential agencies that provide services to minors.
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