- 1 of 1 Photos | View More Photos
Sheila Vaculik still remembers the feeling of learning her daughter was gone.
"As Sierah's mother, I knew there was something seriously wrong and time was of the essence. We called 911 and reported her missing," Vaculik told a Ohio Senate committee last month in Columbus.
The searches began on that July 2016 evening in Fulton County for 20-year-old Sierah Joughin, a University of Toledo student who left on bicycle to travel to her boyfriend's house.
Her body was found a few days later.
Law enforcement checked on registered sex offenders who lived in the area, but the man ultimately charged with her death was not on that list.
He had served time for a violent crime -- something that Vaculik hopes Ohio will require by registry.
"I am only asking that this be considered so the ending may be different for the next family," she told the committee.
Senate Bill 67, introduced by state Senators Cliff Hite and Randy Gardner as "Sierah's Law," would direct the Ohio Attorney General's Office to establish such a registry.
Crimes would include murder, aggravated murder, voluntary manslaughter, kidnapping and abduction. There's also language in the bill to include attempts, conspiracy to commit or complicity in committing any of those crimes. "Perhaps we can save some lives," Hite said in an interview.
Some experts contend that the registries do more harm than good, serving as potential barrier to those who already have served prison terms and try re-enter society.
"It doesn't reduce crime. It doesn't make people safer," said Emily Horowitz, professor of sociology and criminal justice at St. Francis College in Brooklyn.
Portage County Prosecutor Victor Vigluicci, who sits on the executive board of the Ohio Prosecuting Attorney's Association, said to his knowledge, the group -- which meets monthly in Columbus -- hasn't taken a position on the violent offender registry.
He said while the registry won't necessarily help law enforcement agencies who already have access to statewide criminal databases, "the more knowledge the public has, the better."
"Anything that helps to educate the public about their surroundings is better than not," Vigluicci said
In the 1990s, sex offender registries were created nationwide with widespread support. The push to create registries often was tied to high-profile cases in which children were harmed.
"These are terrible cases and you don't want them to happen to again. But they're really, really rare," Horowitz said.
A Bureau of Justice study released last year examined recidivism in 30 states from 2005 to 2010. Of the 7,621 people released in 2005 after serving sentences for homicides, 2.1 percent were arrested again for killing someone within five years. A little more than half were arrested for some kind of offense.
"I don't want people who have honestly been rehabilitated to be hurt by this bill, but there's a chance they may be on the registry," Hite said.
Horowitz said funding that would pay for a registry should instead go to help offenders re-enter society, which would make it less likely for them to re-offend. "You want them to do well," she said.
Tennessee has a meth registry. In Utah, there's a white-collar crime registry. Ohio also has an arson registry, but it's only accessible to investigators.
Kansas, Oklahoma, Illinois, Indiana and Montana are among states that track violent offenders.
Indiana has had its registry since 2007. There, sheriff's offices are supposed to keep tabs on violent offenders as well as sex offenders. Indiana defines violent offenders as those convicted of murder and voluntary manslaughter as well as those convicted on attempted and conspiracy to commit types of charges as well.
Most of the violent offenders are required to be on the list for 10 years after release from prison. But if a child was a victim of a violent crime or there were multiple victims, offenders are placed on the list for life, said Brent Myers, director of Registration and Victim Services for Indiana Department of Correction.
In Marion County, Indiana, there are 11 deputies who must keep up 1,660 sex offenders and 11 violent offenders. The law was passed in 2007 and only affects those who committed crimes after the law passed.
Cpl. Chris Jaussaud, who works as part of the Sex or Violent Offender Registry at the Marion County sheriff's office in Indiana, verifies information on offenders and makes contact with them at least twice a year .
Jaussaud said he gets to know the offenders and their families. A small percentage get in trouble again.
"I would like to think the registry is good," he said. "I think it's important for people to know who's around them."
In Franklin County, four detectives are supposed to keep up with 1,755 sex offenders, as of February.
Adding violent offenders to the mix would likely require more deputies.
Of the violent offenses listed in the bill, more than a hundred offenders are convicted of the offenses outlined in the bill each year in Franklin County alone, according to the clerk's office data for the past three years. That doesn't include convictions for attempted or conspiring to commit those crimes. According to 2014 data from the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, the average murder sentence is just more than 20 years.
"Money is tight right now," Hite said. "We all know that. It will be an interesting debate."
Dan Tierney, a spokesman for the Attorney General's Office said, "In addition to meeting with members of the General Assembly, our office has had meetings with judges, sheriffs, and prosecutors about the creation of a violent offender registry. While every group is concerned about budgets and unfunded mandates, we have not heard any pointed opposition from these groups."
It costs the Attorney General's Office $544,000 each year plus personnel costs to manage the sex-offender registry. Estimates to include the violent-offender registry would be $350,000 to establish and operate it the first year. A subsequent annual cost estimate is that the state would pay about $175,000 plus personnel costs to manage the registry each year after.
Among the groups pledging support are the Buckeye State Sheriff's Association.
Wood County Sheriff Mark Wasylyshyn, president of the association, said in his county, there are approximately 150 sex offenders monitored by a single deputy. "To me knowledge is power," he said.
It's questionable how effective registries are.
In Columbus, Ohio State University student Reagan Tokes was abducted, raped and killed in February. The man charged in the crimes is a convicted sex offender who was wearing an ankle monitor.
Vaculik is still haunted by her daughter's case, and wonders if a registry would have made a difference.
"Would my daughter have been found Wednesday alive instead of Friday in a shallow grave 7 miles from our home?" she told the committee. "I will never know the answer to that question and that is the subject of my nightmares."
Record-Courier staff writer Dave O'Brien contributed to this story.