On Thursday, July 21, 2011 Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed into law House Bill 263. The law, called Andrea's Law, will go into effect on January 1, 2012. It will require all murderers in Illinois to register with the state and be placed on a murderers registry for 10 years following their release from prison.
It is a victory for anyone who has watched the murderer of a loved one exit prison and dissolve back into society. Most of all, it is a victory for all who knew, loved, and supported the family of Andrea Will, of Batavia.
In 1998, while attending Eastern Illinois University, Andrea was strangled by her ex-boyfriend, Justin Boulay, who had followed her to the university and was living in an apartment near the campus. On a cold February night, Justin called Andrea and pleaded with her to come to his apartment. The lure was that he simply wanted to talk and give her a birthday present.
There was no present.
What Justin presented instead was a phone cord which he wrapped around Andrea's neck and tightened for four and a half minutes. After a valiant struggle, Andrea died of strangulation.
Convicted and given 24 years in prison, Justin was freed after serving just 12 years in jail due to a flaw in the state's laws at the time. For every day of good behavior Justin served, a day was taken off of his time. The flaw effectively cut his sentence in half. Released in November of 2010, Justin now lives in Hawaii with his wife Rachel, who is a college professor on one of the islands.
If you read my posting of November 9, 2010, you know that this story hits close to home for me and my children. They were both classmates of Andrea's. At the time of Andrea's death, my son was dating her best friend and cousin, Stephanie. Although I never met Andrea, she is often on my mind. I will never forget the night she died and the lasting impact it has had on this community.
But the passing of Andrea's Law gives me hope. From across the country and beyond, people extended their hearts to Andrea's family when Justin Boulay was released early from prison. Moved by that injustice, Andrea's sorority sisters, friends, family, and countless others mounted the massive effort to craft Andrea's Law and get it passed.
It is easy to be cynical and disillusioned in a world that appears increasingly rigid and bigoted, violent and apathetic. It is hard to look beyond the ugly and sensational headlines. Hard to trust that there are more people in the world who are caring and just than the news would have us believe.
But there are. The passing of Andrea's Law reminds me of that.