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    Tougher N.J. penalty urged for sex assaults of children

    The father of a murdered Florida girl Monday urged New Jersey lawmakers to join 44 other states in approving tougher penalties for anyone convicted of sexually assaulting a child.

    Mark Lunsford traveled to the Statehouse in Trenton to push for a law requiring a mandatory 25-year prison term without parole for molesting a child under the age of 13. Lunsford’s 9-year-old daughter was raped and murdered by a convicted sex offender in 2005.

    “There’s no reason for anyone to put their hands on these children and to receive minimum sentences and probation,” he said. “These are our children, our youngest children, and we have to do more to protect them.”

    Also speaking Monday was Rosemarie D’Alessandro, the mother of a 7-year-old girl who was sexually assaulted and killed by a neighbor in 1973.

    “If we don’t get a law like this through what happens is a sexual offender could be on the street, and you know what he could do, he could go all the way,” said the woman from Hillsdale. “Do you want that to happen? You want these people to stay in prison.”

    Supporters say the New Jersey version of Jessica’s law has enough backers to win approval in the Assembly. The measure has been held up in committee.

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