Senate Republicans shoot down notification requirement for child killers

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Arizona state senate Republicans voted down an amendment to the budget, which would have added child killers to the state's sex offender registry.

[RELATED: The Phantom' serial killer of children out of prison, living in Tucson]

The proposed law was a reaction to a CBS 5 Investigation into how a convicted serial killer was released from prison, and placed in a Tucson halfway house.

William Huff was released from prison in January of 2016, after serving 49 years in prison for murdering two young girls in Sierra Vista in 1967. The case received publicity at the time, due in part to the fact that Huff sent a letter to police, referring to himself as "The Phantom."

Neighbors were not notified when Huff moved into their community. In fact, the Arizona Department of Corrections is not permitted to release the man's address.

"We walked our dog, with our child, in front of his house every day for a year and a half until your story informed us of his existence. It is outrageous," wrote one of the hundreds of people who posted comments on social media and wrote emails to CBS 5 News. They also contacted their state lawmakers.

"I've heard from plenty of constituents about it," said Senator Steve Farley, a Democrat, who lives near the area where Huff's halfway house is located.

Farley proposed an amendment on the floor of the state senate on Thursday, which would have added people like Huff to the state's sex offender registry. Under federal law, violent offenders whose victims were children are eligible to be placed on sex offender registries, allowing community notification when they move nearby. In Arizona, aside from sex offenses, people who kidnapped kids are placed on the registry, but not people who murder kids.

That would have changed, if Senate Republicans had allowed the amendment to be added to the state budget.

"All I'm asking is for information to be given to parents who live in the area," said Farley from the floor of the Senate.

Senator Debbie Lesko, was the first to say she would not vote in favor of the measure. She, Senator Steve Yarbrough, who is the Senate President, and Senator John Kavanagh, all Republicans, offered statements that indicated they were uncomfortable passing a measure as serious as this one at the end of the legislative term, without debate and testimony from experts.

"It is very complicated," said Kavanagh from the floor.

Later, in an email to CBS 5 Investigates, Kavanagh wrote, "I will be looking into this with the courts, prosecutors and other parties. It is a complicated issue, legally and with respect to which crimes to expand the law to."

But Farley insists, the issue cannot wait another year.

"It was the best shot, but I am looking for more opportunities," he wrote in an email after his proposal was voted down.

In a related update, Governor Doug Ducey said he wants more information about why the Arizona board of Executive Clemency released Huff from prison in the first place. Huff was sentenced to 40-years to life.

"This is a decision that was made by the Clemency Board. I want to understand all the facts here, but I'm concerned with what I've heard," said Ducey.

Copyright 2017 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

Morgan  LoewMorgan Loew is an investigative reporter on the CBS 5 Investigates team. His reports have landed crooks behind bars and led to changes in state law.

Click to learn more about Morgan .

Morgan Loew
CBS 5 Investigates

He has exposed conmen who prey on the elderly and predators who target women and children. Morgan combines his legal training with the experience he’s earned over 20-years of news reporting in Arizona to break big stories and dig beyond the headlines. His stories about education, consumer scams and crooked politicians have gone on to make national headlines. Among his favorite investigations are the ones that take him undercover. In addition his hidden camera investigations on drug and human smuggling, Morgan infiltrated some of the most dangerous militia and vigilante groups in the southwest. Members were later charged with crimes that range from murder to child molesting. Over the years, Morgan’s work has appeared on CBS News, CNN, NBC, MSNBC, and NPR. Morgan won ten Rocky Mountain Emmy Awards, a regional Edward R. Murrow Award for investigative reporting, the Society of Professional Journalists’ First Amendment Award, and a commendation from the Humane Society of the United States. Morgan is a graduate of the University of Arizona School of Journalism, earned his Juris Doctorate at Concord Law School, teaches media law at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University, and is the president of the First Amendment Coalition of Arizona, Inc., which advocates for open records and open government. When he’s not working, Morgan enjoys camping, cheering for the Arizona Wildcats, and spending time with his family at their ranch in southern Arizona.

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