Between the Lines

Between the Lines By David Lias Maria Olson, her family, and members of the Vermillion community are still reeling from the terrible day in October when, in a fit of rage, Maria's husband, Daren, killed their 5-month-old daughter Jordyn.

Daren Olson pleaded guilty to first degree manslaughter in a plea bargain agreement Feb. 11. He won't be sentenced, probably, until early this spring to give officials time to complete pre-sentence investigation.

Naturally, it's disturbing when an infant dies at the hands of the person caring for him or her.

Perhaps what's even more disturbing, however, is that Jordyn Olson isn't the only child to be killed by an adult in our area recently.

Heidi Watkins, 29, of Spirit Lake, IA, recently appeared in court. She's charged with abusing her 2-year-old daughter, and eventually taking her life.

And, a northwest Iowa man has been charged with child endangerment after a 6-week-old baby was hospitalized. The child later died of his injuries.

James Boldra, 21, of Le Mars was charged a couple weeks ago, shortly after the child's death.

The baby was taken to Floyd Valley Hospital in Le Mars, then transferred to a hospital in Sioux Falls, where he died.

Ironically, the baby was touted as Le Mars' first baby of the new millennium. Boldra is being held in an Iowa jail on a bond of more than $32,000.

Patty Andersen of Sioux City, Maria's grandmother, can't help but notice that young children in the region seem to be easy targets for abuse or worse.

"It's not just about Jordyn to us," she said in a recent interview with the Plain Talk. "It's about a lot of what's going on. It needs to stop, and the only way you are even going to put a wedge in it is if they (the courts) start giving them (the perpetrators) more time for doing this."

South Dakota could have taken a step in the right direction toward offering greater protection to its children.

Attorney General Mark Barnett would like to see the state adopt a program that would let citizens gain access to a list of registered sex offenders on the Internet.

The South Dakota Legislature apparently doesn't agree with Barnett. It voted down legislation that would have implemented his idea.

Barnett's idea has merit, and we hope the Legislature will revisit the notion of allowing citizens to access the names of registered sex offenders on the World Wide Web.

Current trends in South Dakota, we believe, will eventually make using this bit of modern communication technology a necessity.

The number of registered sex offenders in South Dakota has risen 134 percent in the last five years, according to numbers from the South Dakota Attorney General's Office.

"The operative point is that there are over a thousand out there. Some may be low risk, but they obviously have a problem and present a continuous danger," Barnett said in a recent news story.

People convicted of felony sex offenses are required to register with local law enforcement wherever they live upon their release from prison.

Since 1995, the total number of registered sex offenders in the state has more than doubled, from 439 to 1,027 as of December.

Many of the offenders that law enforcement officers are most concerned about are violent rape offenders or were involved in situations that victimized children.

Barnett proposed that registered sex offenders be listed on the Internet, so that more people feel comfortable accessing the list and knowing who in their community is a registered sex offender.

But his bill failed 26-40 in the state House recently.

"Police and social workers can't do it alone," Barnett said. "Why would we resist the opportunity to have every South Dakota citizen is well informed and watching out for each other?

"We are the government. It is our job to protect people. As for my office, we will fight to protect law-abiding citizens," he added.

Including children.

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