All posts by Marc Klaas

I am President of the KlaasKids Foundation and BeyondMissing, Inc. Both organizations are 501(c)(3) public benefit non profit organizations.

They Took Our Child: We Got Her Back

In January 2015, I began informally consulting on a projected “True Crime” television series called They Took Our Child: We Got Her Back. It premieres this Wednesday, October 7, 2015 at 10:00 PM on the Lifetime Movie Network.

The one element that totally differentiates this program from all other True Crime television is that it is guaranteed to have a happy ending. Watch as victim after victim recounts their ordeal and the circumstances that enable them to escape almost certain death.

They Took Our Child: We Got Her Back tells the stories of abducted children who escaped from the hands of their kidnappers; and the families who never gave up hope on getting them home safely. Each episode features a single story, told by the formerly kidnapped child and the family members and investigators who tirelessly searched for them, according to the network. Viewers will hear about the parents’ frantic and relentless search for their child, and how they worked with law enforcement to bring them home.

The premiere episode of They Took Our Child: We Got Her Back recounts the story of kidnap survivor and KlaasKids volunteer Midsi Sanchez. Please check back to read my blog on Midsi, where we discuss the crime, life after victimization, and her experinece on this very cool new television series.

Jared Fogle & AJ Gonzales: Not the Usual Suspects

Where #BadJared hid his victims

Where #BadJared hid his victims

Former Subway spokesman Jared Fogle is headed to prison for having sex with at least one child, receiving and distributing child pornography. Like 15-year-old A.J. Gonzales, the 15-year-old boy who allegedly killed little Maddy Middleton in Santa Cruz, #BadJared is not one of the usual suspects. How then, do we protect our kids when their abusers or killers do not conform to stereotypes?

Since at least 2007 #BadJared has been using his wealth, position and subterfuge to victimize and exploit America’s children. He was aware of and possessed, photos and video created and supplied by Russ Taylor, the disgraced Executive Director of Fogle’s children’s charity. Instead of notifying the police he possessed and distributed the kiddy porn. He has also pled guilty to paying at least two underage girls for sex. In all, there are 14-known victims named in the indictment against #BadJared.

Alleged Rapist Killer AJ Gonzales

Alleged Rapist Killer AJ Gonzales

In Santa Cruz, CA 8-year-old Maddy Middleton was missing for more than a day when her lifeless body was discovered in a dumpster at her apartment complex and her teenaged neighbor was arrested for her kidnapping, raping and murdering her. By outward appearance the neighbor boy was a non-threatening presence at the apartment complex who was well liked by the younger children.

Neither perp is a dirty old man in a trench coat. Neither was a registered sex offender, and both were seeming well liked within their community. In other words neither were waving red flags. How then do we protect our kids from predators that lurk below the radar?

First, I think it is important that children understand that they don’t have to automatically submit to the requests of every adult put in front of them. They shouldn’t have to kiss Aunt Sally, stay around for extra Soccer practice with Coach Larry, or prepare the sacrament with Father John. They should be taught to be respectful but skeptical of the adults that they come into contact with. They should trust their feelings if something doesn’t feel right, and feel comfortable declining invitations. Remember, it is a well-known fact that individuals who have sexual designs on children will find ways in their professions and volunteer activities to gain unsupervised access to your kids.

Parents should have ongoing safety conversations with their children. Look upon it a learning opportunity that will help them grow up into healthy, productive citizens. They should always check with their parents first. They should always be with at least one other trusted person. They should trust their feelings and be willing to put distance between themselves and the cause of their unease. I also think that it is a good idea to give your children cell phones. This gives them 24/7 direct access to you as well as enable you to track their movements through the cell phone’s GPS capability. Well…at least track the device.

Both of these goons are going to do hard time for their crimes. But will it be enough? Maddy has no life therefore no prospects, yet her killer will linger (at state expense) for decades. Who would be willing to calculate the damage done to #BadJared’s 14-victims? Fortunately, The Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2003 established a federal, civil right of action for trafficking victims to sue their traffickers. Let’s hope that his victims litigate him into bankruptcy. Then, when he emerges from prison in a few years, his bank account will match his morality and his victims just may have a chance to put their lives back together.

2015 Amber Alert Updates

Amber-Alert-Logo-on-Crime-Background-jpg--1-The KlaasKids Foundation has just completed a comparative analysis of 52 State and Regional Amber Alert plans. We provide a link to the official site, the jurisdictional law enforcement agency, the Amber Alert contact, activation criteria, activation plan, and scope of the Amber Alert. While there are numerous similarities between the plans, there are many differences as well. If you wish to know how your state stacks up against the rest simply click here to find out.

All 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands have AMBER Alert plans. The AMBER Alert system has also been adopted in the Canadian provinces and continues to expand into the Mexican Border States.

According to the most recent statistics, since 1996, 734 children have successfully been recovered through the issuance of Amber Alerts. Of course many of these children were victims of parental abduction. That occurs when a non-custodial parent takes his or her child(ren) without permission and does not return them to the custodial parent.

Unfortunately, few of the cases that truly require an Amber Alert ever receive one because the cases do not fulfill all of the required criteria. For instance the kidnappings of Polly, Elizabeth Smart, Danielle VanDam, Amber DuBois and Adam Walsh would not have qualified for Amber Alerts in most states because they were either not taken in front of witnesses, the abductor was unknown, or the make and model of the getaway vehicle was not known.

The criteria required for Amber Alert activation was created by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, as was the decision to use the Emergency Alert System as the primary technology for delivery and distribution.

Amber Hagerman

The Amber Alert was created in response to the kidnapping and murder of 9-year-old Amber Hagerman, who was kidnapped while riding her bike near her home in Arlington, Texas on January 13, 1996.

My Second Day In Court

Jesus said, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her (John 8:7)”

Polly PinThey are like a demonic Penn & Teller. The perp, John Sparrow, sits silently, intently watching his lawyer, occasionally the jury, but mostly Jane Doe One, while his attorney, Steve Gallenson, brews black magic. He is able to psychologically torture and emotionally twist the young victim on the witness stand for hours under the guise of a quest for justice, and apparently there is nothing that can be done to stop it.

I wonder if these aggressive tactics serve his client. The jury has to notice the smug look on their faces as the young witness struggles to maintain her composure. What does he expect to find at the end of this brutal line of questioning? A tortured soul laid bare, with no recourse but to be harshly judged for having been victimized by sexual predator?

I question how and why the defense can lay a victim’s deepest and darkest secrets at the feet of the jury without consideration of the consequences, when that same jury is not allowed to know that the defendant has already been convicted of these crimes once before.

Finally, the torturous line of questioning ends. She spent a day on the stand justifying her own existence, having her past exposed like an onion, layer by layer. She was brave on the stand: her voice didn’t waver and her gaze didn’t drop. However, after she was excused and when she was finally out of eyesight of the jury she broke down in cascading waves of despair. She was so sad, seemingly broken.

I met Jane Doe One and Two before they testified. Independently, I gave them each a Polly Pin, like the one I wear on my lapel. I told them a little bit about her story, because neither of them were alive yet when Polly was murdered. I told them that as her worst fears were being realized: as the kidnapper was stealing her into the night, her last words were, “Please don’t hurt my mother and sister.” I told them that if Polly could find the courage to put others ahead of herself as she realized her worst fears, then they could find the strength to stand up to the defense attorney’s psychological Blitz Krieg. Jane Doe Two wore Polly’s pin on the stand, above her heart. Jane Doe One kept it clutched in her hand as she answered every question put to her with courage and strength. I like to think that over the course of the last two days Polly’s spirit helped them to navigate the murky waters of America’s criminal justice system.

My Day In Court

Seal_of_CaliforniaI spent the day at the Sonoma County Superior Court in support of two young women who were facing their molester in court for the second time. On Oct. 11, 2013, 55-year old John Sparrow was found guilty of twelve felonies involving the sexual molestation of two minor victims under the age of 14.

In 2013, both victims weathered the indignity of testifying to terrible crimes committed against them when they were young girls in front of a room full of total strangers. When they left the court room, emotionally and physically drained from sharing their personal nightmares, they had full confidence that Sparrow would spend the next several decades behind bars. However, less than a year later Sparrow was granted a new trial on grounds of ineffective assistance from his first lawyer. Lawyers may be the only profession that regularly throws its own under the bus in the quest for more business: or is it perverted justice?

The case is simple enough. Jane Doe One was Sparrow’s neighbor, having moved into his neighborhood when she was only 8-years-old. He began molesting her at 11, and continued to molest her for the next five years. She said that she told no-one because he made her feel like the molestations were her fault. She was afraid that if anyone found out that she was doing something wrong, she would get in trouble.

The molestations always started with a shoulder rub, because Sparrow is a certified massage therapist, but over time they escalated to graphic and overt sex crimes. When Jane Doe One was 16-years old she and Jane Doe Two, who is two years younger, went to Sparrow’s house to smoke pot and eat magic mushrooms. Some hours later Sparrow gave Jane Dow Two one of his infamous sex-massages, and when he slid down her bra strap and put his hand on her breast she stopped him, got her friend and went to the authorities. Thus ended (at least we hope) a pedophile’s career.

The defense doesn’t contest that Sparrow gave his legally procured medical marijuana to young girls, that he supplied them with hallucinogenic drugs, that he took the children into the woods to trip, or that he couldn’t keep his hands off of them. What they do deny is that any sexual molestation ever occurred.

In his opening statement Sparrow’s new lawyer, Steve Gallenson, said that the girls fabricated the molestations. The first witness, Jane Doe Two, was brought to tears on several occasions as she was forced by Gallenson to recount her ordeal in excruciating detail. He tried and tried to trip her up by pointing out minor inconsistencies over several testimonies, interviews, and third party reports. However, she held her ground, refusing to be bullied by a lawyer who will settle for nothing less than 100% recall about the worst trauma of her young life that occurred while she was high on pot and hallucinogenic mushrooms. I thought that she did an amazing job.

When Jane Doe One took the stand you could hear a pin drop in the courtroom. After recounting her history of being molested by Sparrow at the direction of Assistant District Attorney Tania Partida, Gallenson attacked again. He, and his client, forced her to recount the details of 5-years of sex crimes in front of total strangers. During the first two-hours of her testimony she refused to look at Sparrow, just as he couldn’t seem to take his eyes off of her. The bitter irony is that in her mind and in the courtroom Jane Doe One is being continually re-victimized at the same time that Sparrow, in his mind and in the courtroom, is continually re-victimizing her.

I wonder what kind of ambiguous and skewed morality allows a lawyer to attack children in a courtroom and bring them to tears time and time again, as he defends the indefensible.

Finding Ways To Remember Joan

By Rosemarie D’Alessandro

Joan D'Alessandro

Joan D’Alessandro

Forty-one years ago, I survived one of the most horrific experiences anyone could ever have to go through: the rape and murder of my seven-year-old daughter, Joan, at the hands of a neighbor to whom she was delivering Girl Scout cookies. He lived just three houses away and claimed that he knew how to lure children because he was a teacher. Her case became an historic one, causing changes in Girl Scout rules and making parents more vigilant in how they monitored their children. In a way, society would never be quite so innocent again.

Since then, I have worked to find ways to help protect other families from a similar experience, while commemorating my daughter and all she gave to the world during her brief time here. Through social action, setting up a new foundation, and creating a memorial, I have found new meaning and the strength to go on.

Joan was a happy, contented child with a twinkle in her eyes and a smile that warmed your heart. She stood up for herself, even at three years old, without reservation. She had a gentleness about her that went along with her spunkiness and social nature. Her outgoing character was balanced with enjoying peaceful times alone. She wasn’t afraid to try out a new experience such as ice skating or diving from the high board, putting herself into it wholeheartedly. A classmate told me how Joan brought her into the group and made her feel accepted.

I will always remember her last words she spoke to me as she ran out the door: “I will be right back.

The loss was so great. I went through three months of complete shock; the smallest things could cause me enormous pain. But I knew I had to make a decision about whether to move forward, and I chose to live my life. To me, her death on Holy Thursday and being found on Easter Sunday was in its own way a message of hope.

The meaning of this message became all the more clear in 1993 when I found out that her killer was eligible for parole, 20 years after my child’s murder. I knew that I had to fight this. I began a grassroots movement by speaking to the media and starting a petition and ribbon campaign, in her favorite color green, to advocate for the denial of parole for the killer. Eighty thousand signatures helped to keep him in prison.

I would have to fight again each time the killer became eligible for parole, raising awareness of the safety of all children and families. During this process I saw a bigger picture, and that something had to be done to change this process. I therefore fought for the adoption of laws guaranteeing that such criminals would remain behind bars for life without the possibility of parole. We found success with Joan’s Law, which mandates that anyone who murders a child during the commission of a sex crime will never get out of prison. However, it is not retroactive and cannot apply to us.

But, at least three Joan’s Laws were signed and went into effect in New York, New Jersey, and finally on the federal level. I remember standing in front of the Capitol steps with Marc Klaas and Congressman Bob Frank as we pushed for Joan’s Law and other, stronger child safety regulations. At present, I am working on a new law in New Jersey to expand Joan’s Law to protect children under 18. Hopefully, Joan’s Law can be the goal for other states as well.

I continue to commemorate Joan in other ways as well. In 1998, Joan’s special inspiration guided me to form the Joan Angela D’Alessandro Memorial Foundation. The Foundation helped bring attention to child protection safety, enrich the lives of at-risk and underprivileged children, and promote victims’ rights.

Since its formation, more than 19 fundraisers have been held and the Foundation has donated funds through its Fun, Education, and Safety Program. At-risk children and youth from Paterson and Passaic, NJ, have been able to go to the Washington, DC, Radio City Music Hall in New York, the Amish Country, and the New Jersey shore. The YCS Holly Center in Hackensack, NJ, has been able to take 65 children to Great Adventure for a dream day and children from the Jumoke School in Connecticut have been able to learn about careers with working dogs.

D'Alessandro 2

Then, in 2013, the 40th anniversary of Joan’s passing, I began to work on a project that would ensure that Joan and the safety of all children would never be forgotten. This past June my vision became reality with the creation of the Joan Angela D’Alessandro White Butterfly Sculpture and Garden in the center of the town of Hillsdale, NJ, by the train station. This permanent granite sculpture tells Joan’s story and stands with pride in the midst of a colorful, lush garden with a custom-made bench that has Joan’s signature on it. The White Butterfly that is carved on the front of the sculpture is a symbol of Joan’s spirit bringing hope and joy. It became a sign after I saw a white butterfly at the site where Joan’s body was found in 2006.

The sculpture and the surrounding garden will leave a lasting impression on all who view it for many years to come, and help to spread Joan’s story and promote social justice and child protection awareness. Joan’s legacy goes on with all the children she has saved and continues to save. Wouldn’t it be impactful if there were child safety sculptures and gardens in other states too?

For more information and to get involved, please visit our website at or email Rosemarie D’Alessandro at

Girl Scouts Digital Cookie

girl scoutCongratulations to Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA) for unveiling Digital Cookie, a groundbreaking new addition to the Girl Scout Cookie Program that creates a fun, safe, interactive space for girls to sell cookies. Digital Cookie adds a digital layer that expands and strengthens the ways girls learn the essential 5 Skills of goal setting, decision making, money management, people skills, and business ethics. The future of the Girl Scout Cookie Program, Digital Cookie will introduce vital 21st-century lessons about online marketing, app usage, and ecommerce to more than 1 million excited Girl Scouts who will be in the driver’s seat of their own digital cookie businesses.

Digital Cookie emphasizes the safety of both girls and their customers. Girls and their caregivers take an Internet safety pledge before using the web-based platform, and caregivers must approve all updates and changes girls make when customizing their Digital Cookie site. Girls using the mobile platform will adhere to the same safety standards as those participating in traditional Girl Scout Cookie sales.

As a child safety advocate I have long been aware of the challenges that face Girl Scouts as they gear up for the annual Cookie Drive, a fundamental fundraiser for Girl Scout Councils nationwide. Whether it is a group of girls setting up shop outside a supermarket, interacting with volunteers, or knocking on doors in their own neighborhood, safety challenges can seem daunting, even in the “safest” neighborhoods.

Rosemarie D'Alessandro with a portrait of her daughter Joan

Rosemarie D’Alessandro with a portrait of her daughter Joan

My friend Rosemarie D’Alessandro lost her only daughter, 7-year-old Joan, 41 years ago while delivering Girl Scout Cookies. “A neighbor raped and murdered of my daughter as she was delivering Girl Scout cookies. He lived just three houses away and claimed that he knew how to lure children because he was a teacher.” Rosemary has since worked to find ways to help protect other families from a similar experience, while commemorating her daughter and all she gave to the world during her brief life.

Digital Cookie provides girls with an important foundation in technology that will be vital to their experiences in school, business, and life in general in the years ahead. Digital Cookie will also allow customers to help girls learn 21st-century skills grounded in technology, along with valuable interpersonal skills girls will acquire through their continued participation in traditional booth and door to door sales.

“For almost a century, the Girl Scout Cookie Program has been teaching girls to be leaders in the world of business and finance, and we intend to ensure that legacy continues in the digital age,” said Anna Maria Chávez, CEO of GSUSA. “Digital Cookie is a game-changer for Girl Scouts, and a quantum leap forward in the evolution of the cookie program, coupling traditional sales activities with an online sales experience that teaches skills like online marketing and ecommerce, all in a digital space that puts an emphasis on learning, fun, and safety. If you buy Girl Scout Cookies online this year, you could be helping to prepare the next female leader of a global tech giant who changes our world forever. Join us in making Girl Scout history this cookie season!”

Polly’s Guide To A Safe Halloween

8 yr old Polly - HalloweenHalloween can be as frightening as it is fun. Scary stories, haunted houses, and jack-o-lanterns rule the day. Children dress up in costumes that stretch the imagination. We laugh, we cringe, and we marvel at their creativity. They knock on the doors of strangers and receive all manner of treats. In the United States Halloween celebrates goons, goblins, ghosts, and all things departed.

No wonder moms and dads all over America feel like they are rolling dice with fate as the tykes disappear into the darkness. Hopefully, Polly’s Guide to a Safe Halloween will alleviate some of that anxiety.

  • Trick-or-Treat with a group andd take along a parent or a teen-aged brother or sister
  • Check the Megan’s Law website for sex offenders in your neighborhood and avoid homes where sex offenders live
  • Make sure that someone in your group has a cell phone with a charged battery
  • Trick-or-Treat in neighborhoods you know, you trust and that are well lit
  • Stay out of dark alleys, dark stairwells, or remote locations
  • Discuss your Halloween route with your parents and the time you will return
  • Wear clothing that is light in color and not too long. Add something that glows in the dark or is reflective
  • wear make-up instead of a mask that can inhibit vision
  • Take a flashlight and walk on the sidewalk
  • Cross streets at the crosswalk and stay away from cars
  • Stay outside the homes you visit
  • Be sure all treats are wrapped and sealed. Eat them only after a parent checks them first
  • Trust your feelings! Stay away from strange or uncomfortable situations
  • If you do not feel safe Trick-or-Treating, do not Trick-or-Treat
  • Have an FUN and SAFE Halloween!

Media Relations & Missing Children

What would you do if your child was kidnapped? How would you handle media relations? Below you will find time tested strategies, ideas, and concepts that you can adapt to help you through the most difficult of times as well as maximize your media opportunities.

Cooperate with the media: They can be intrusive and annoying, but media can broadcast an image and the circumstances surrounding the disappearance of a son / daughter to more people in just 30 seconds than you will accomplish stapling flyers to telephone poles in 100 years. They can ask questions that feel prying and insensitive but ultimately are valuable.

Some missing children can not be resolved quickly and can continue for weeks, months, or years. Some cases are never solved. To encourage an ongoing investigation you need the support of a proactive public. If we allow the community to forget the case, the efforts of the authorities will be reduced and the ability to recover your child / a decreases dramatically.

The most effective method of obtaining and maintaining support is to ensure that the public is invested in the welfare of your son / daughter. Radio, television and newspapers provide an opportunity to humanize his son, thus making it an emotionally society for research.

We have broken the media experience into three categories: Mainstream Media; Social Media; & Press Releases and Press Conferences. Please feel free to use any of the strategies, examples or ideas as they apply to your situation.

Mainstream Media

Social Media

Press Releases & Press Conferences

Why DNA is Important to You

child safety capsuleDid you know that personalized medicine is not only rapidly growing, but taking on new meaning with the advances being made in genetic research?  So how could this impact your interest in Child Safety?

The GENiSYSS Child Safety Capsule is a “time capsule” that collects all the crucial information for emergency response plus DNA.  That includes medical history and information, contact information for family and friends, fingerprints, photos, audios, distinguishing characteristics, all the information law enforcement and medical responders need to quickly search and hopefully find your child.

The deeper advantage is that this information, including the DNA sample taken as a tiny drop of blood in our DNA wells containing patented material to keep the DNA whole and safe for many years, can be taken forward into the child’s adult life.  Why would this be important?

Medical science is able to use DNA from earlier in a person’s life, and hopefully prior to that person’s daily exposure to smog, cigarettes, radiation (even from the sun), chemicals and poisons that actually change our DNA.  It’s these changes that are at the root of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, autism, Touette’s Syndrome and many other diseases and conditions. If “cleaner” early DNA has been stored and is available, DNA can help predict, prevent and treat these diseases before they become problems in a person’s life.

Wouldn’t you like to have a device that is useful during your child’s life to keep crucial information stored and at your fingertips in case of emergency?  Wouldn’t it be great if that same device could be important to your child as an adult?

To learn more, visit the GENiSYSS Indiegogo Campaign Page.  You’ll be amazed at what you learn, and how easy it is to be prepared for an emergency while your child is young and vulnerable with a device that is important to your child as an adult.