Missouri Lawmaker Wants Death Penalty for Kidnappers in Response to Michael Devlin Case

A state senator proposed Wednesday to allow the death penalty for people who kidnap and sexually abuse children — a response to a nationally watched case in which a St. Louis man is accused of kidnapping and abusing two boys.

Sen. John Loudon introduced legislation Wednesday to create a new crime of aggravated child kidnapping with a punishment of the death penalty or life in prison without parole. The crime would include taking a child from a parent after planning to, confining a child and then committing sex acts against the child.

Currently, only those convicted of first-degree murder can be executed in Missouri.

Loudon, R-Chesterfield, said he proposed the law in response to the kidnappings of the two Missouri boys. Pizzeria manager Michael Devlin faces charges of kidnapping and forcible sodomy against the boys.

"It's everybody's worst nightmare," Loudon said. "Anything you can do to rid society of modern-day boogeymen, you should do."

Loudon said a few other states already have the death penalty as an option in such cases.

But others expressed concern about extending the possibility of capital punishment to crimes other than murder.

Michael Rushford, president of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, generally supports the death penalty but said many states have hesitated to make execution an option for crimes such as rape over fears that a criminal will then go ahead and kill the victim because their punishment will be the same.

Loudon said he was "sensitive" to such concerns but hoped that making the harshest punishment a possibility would deter criminals from kidnapping a child.

Also Wednesday, a Franklin County grand jury indicted Devlin on charges of kidnapping and armed criminal action for the Jan. 8 kidnapping of 13-year-old Ben Ownby.

Devlin was charged with Ownby's abduction and the 2002 kidnapping of then 11-year-old Shawn Hornbeck. Both boys were found in Devlin's Kirkwood apartment when police raided it Jan. 12.

The indictment is simply a procedural move that will transfer Devlin's case from associate circuit court to circuit court, Devlin's attorney, Ethan Corlija, said.

Franklin County Prosecuting Attorney Robert Parks wouldn't comment on the indictment Wednesday.

Devlin also faces charges of kidnapping and armed criminal action in Washington County, where Hornbeck was abducted. Devlin is facing 71 felony counts in St. Louis alleging he restrained and forcibly sodomized both boys.

While it is The Associated Press' policy not to identify alleged victims of sexual abuse in most cases, the story of Shawn and Ben has been widely publicized and their names are now well-known. Also, their families have gone public, conducting several media interviews.

Devlin is being held in the Franklin County jail in lieu of a $1 million bond.