The news I found out on Friday the 13th had the potential to be possibly the best news I've ever received! I got a phone call letting me know that the mandatory minimum sentencing we initially were seeking through Zachary's Law has a strong chance to become law! I can't begin to describe how incredible this is. We had to give up on our mandatory minimum sentenced back in October of 2012, because we hit a huge roadblock and our time was running out. You can read about it on our Zachary's Law page.
Below I've copied one of the letters I wrote to Representative Vereb, thanking him for his bill, HB 112.
Fingers crossed and prayers needed over the next week as this sits on the Governor's desk. He has to sign it!
I wanted to reach out to say a very big and very sincere thank you for HB 112. My name is Chrissy. For about three years I worked on being a voice for HB 601, nicknamed Zachary’s Law. We were after the very same mandatory minimum as the amendment you allowed to be added to your bill. We were seeking mandatory minimum for murder of a child because there was an inequity in the law. The inspiration for change was my chubby little 14 month old son, Zachary, who was nicknamed Meatball. He was 14 months old when he was murdered by a child abuser on 5/24/05.
Thankfully when the person who murdered my son was sentenced, he was sentenced to 15-40 years in prison. The year leading up to the sentencing was not an easy one. Gene T was the prosecuting attorney in our case. Gene and I had many conversations. He prepared me for the trial ahead. As a mother trying to just remember how to breathe and live again without my sweet little baby, it was all I could handle to learn that there was a chance that the man who murdered my son could serve as little as 6 years in prison. It petrified me. I couldn’t understand how any judge or any law could mean to tell me that Zachary’s life could possibly be only worth 6 years. Possibly 70, or 80 years had been taken away from Zachary’s life. I’d never get to see him speak more than a few words, ride a bike, go off to school, make friends… the list goes on. The potential sentence was unfair. A man had punched my baby in the stomach so hard that he slowly died of the internal injuries. In the moment, all I could do was put my faith and trust into Gene and our judge, hope for the best, and fight as hard as I could for justice.
Several years later I was given the opportunity to seek a change in the law. I’m just a mom and a teacher. I didn’t really know the first thing about what to do, but I figured it out along the way. Great people like David T, and Stephanie D helped me tremendously. I reached out to our local state rep and asked for help. I wrote letters, made calls, made trips to Harrisburg, and kept oiling the wheel. After several years of fighting, our bill hit a huge brick wall in the Senate. Senator Greenleaf wasn’t in support of our mandatory minimum, or any for that matter. The only chance we had to push forward was to make a sacrifice. We had to let go of HB 601, Zachary’s Law, and modify our language to an enhancement. This was amended into SB 850 which was signed into law in October 2012. To be honest, I was heartbroken. I thought of other mothers who will sadly find themselves in my shoes. They will be walking through the worst moment of their lives and they will learn about the current minimum sentencing guidelines of 6-20 years. I remained positive though and told myself that any change would be an improvement. Along the way I got to share Zachary’s story with anyone who would listen, spread awareness of this inequity and child abuse, and I gained many wonderful supporters.
It came to an absolute surprise to me yesterday when David T gave me a call. He said he was looking at your bill and it was currently sitting on the Governor’s desk. He read to me the section pertaining to murder of a child. I was in such disbelief. What we had to let go of almost 2 years ago had now made it to the governor!!! I cannot express to you just how happy I am to learn that in a few short days this law can become a reality! As I sit here to write you this letter, I tearfully think of my son, Zachary. My heart aches for him every single day. I watch my other children playing at the park right now, and I wonder what my 10 year old Zachary would be doing. Continuing to do positive things in his memory is what keeps his spirit alive for me and my family. This bill is just another way that I feel Zachary smiling down on me from heaven.
Representative Vereb, please accept my gratitude. Thank you for fighting for Pennsylvania’s children and fighting for this very important change in the law!
I’ve dedicated a website to my son. If you’d like to see his beautiful little face and infectious smile you can visit http://www.rememberingzacharyproject.com/zacharys-law/