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.

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Morgan  LoewMorgan Loew is an investigative reporter at CBS 5 News. His career has taken him to every corner of the state, lots of corners in the United States, and some far-flung corners of the globe.

Click to learn more about Morgan .

Morgan Loew
CBS 5 Investigates

Morgan’s past assignments include covering the invasion of Iraq, human smuggling in Mexico, vigilantes on the border and Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Maricopa County. His reports have appeared or been featured on CBS News, CNN, NBC News, MSNBC and NPR.

Morgan’s peers have recognized his work with 11 Rocky Mountain Emmy Awards, two regional Edward R. Murrow Awards for investigative reporting, an SPJ First Amendment Award, and a commendation from the Humane Society of the United States. In October 2016, Morgan was inducted into the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Silver Circle in recognition of 25 years of contribution to the television industry in Arizona.

Morgan is graduate of the University of Arizona journalism school and Concord Law School at Purdue University Global. He is the president of the Arizona First Amendment Coalition and teaches media law and TV news reporting at ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

When he’s not out looking for the next big news story, Morgan enjoys hiking, camping, cheering for the Arizona Wildcats and spending time with his family at their southern Arizona ranch.

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