Family pushes for stronger repeat offender laws - WSMV Channel 4

Family pushes for stronger repeat offender laws

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One Tennessee family is fighting for stronger laws against repeat criminal offenders.

They say the man who killed their daughter should have been in prison at the time, and it's time to put some teeth into Tennessee law.

Amelia Keown's family has spend the past few weeks meeting with state lawmakers and armed with 150 pages of documents. They believe those documents prove the man who hit their daughter in August should have been behind bars at the time.

Amanda Moore's 16-year-old daughter, Amelia, was heading to dance practice in Blount County on Aug. 14, but she never made it.

John Perkins was speeding and was about to be pulled over by police when he hit Amelia head-on and killed her instantly.

"He came at her so fast she didn't even have a chance to, probably - I hope and pray that she didn't see him coming," Moore said.

After the accident, Amelia's family researched Perkins and found pages and pages of previous arrests.

"We were shocked at what we found. It was crime after crime after crime after crime," said grandfather Wayne Keown.

Perkins had been convicted of five armed robberies in 2005, but despite repeatedly being in trouble with the law he only served a fraction of his sentence.

Now, Amelia's family is meeting with state lawmakers in hopes of a stronger repeat offender law to keep people like Perkins behind bars.

"I can't forgive him, and I won't. But that's what I have to live with. What I can do now is try to help someone else," Moore said.

So far, many lawmakers have been receptive.

The big catch is the cost, as anytime you keep people in jail longer it costs more money, but lawmakers think they can make a difference.

"We want to do something that has a good chance of passing, so that's why we involved all the legal staff that we could. And we're going to involve the governor's office as much as we can," said State Rep. Bob Ramsey, R-Maryville.

This family has made it their mission, and they have 12,000 signatures on a petition. They say it will help Amelia accomplish what she wanted in life.

"She wanted to be a nurse and save lives. And if I get this passed, and I will get this passed, she will be able to save lives. She won't be here, but she will not be forgotten," Moore said.

The meeting with lawmakers Friday involved both the legal and fiscal legislative staff. The goal is to come up with a bill that can balance the financial concerns and still make a real difference in the sentencing laws.

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