The Halloween tragedy of Lisa French

Updated Oct. 2020: Some Patch editors, to give them credit, are, along with their red-dot — or blue-dot — maps, including some of the actual facts concerning Halloween and children and sexual crime and those on the registry, and a few are even re-running the letter of protest sent to Patch editors by us in 2017. Then, not so much to their credit, some are also running the Lisa French story, written by Patch journalist Dennis Robaugh in 2017, as their explanation about why Patch continues to publicize the names and locations of those on sexual offense registries as “Halloween warnings” at this time of the year. In response to that, I wrote this piece about the Lisa French tragedy, and I think it is fitting that it be considered again.

By Sandy . . . I just read the story of Lisa French again this year.

Someone posts the story of Lisa French shortly before Halloween every year.

It is a sad and tragic story.

A beautiful little nine-year-old girl named Lisa French, trick-or-treating in her neighborhood in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, was restrained, raped, murdered, and dumped in a field by her neighbor Gerald Turner. It took four days to find her body and nine months for Turner to confess.

It destroyed the innocence of the city, the state, and the nation.

Every Halloween, when media and activists are protesting the excessive waste expended on special constraints for registrants on Halloween, someone prints the story of Lisa French.

“See,” they say. “It happened. We have to keep it from happening again.”

Yes. It happened. It was in 1973.

Forty-eight years ago.

Many families in Wisconsin, according to reports, still do not let their children trick-or-treat because of it.

How many children have died in automobile accidents in Wisconsin in the past forty-eight years? Do people in Wisconsin still drive cars?

How many children have died from gun-related incidents there in the past forty-eight years? Do people in Wisconsin still own guns?

The fact that we have to go back forty-eight years to find an example of a child sexually harmed while trick-or-treating speaks volumes.

Wisconsinites are free to observe Halloween when and how they choose, but to use this forty-eight-year-old tragedy as an example of why those on sexual offense registries across the nation are subject to outrageous restrictions on Halloween is itself outrageous.

Those who commit sexual crimes almost never murder their victims. That places any applicability of this case to the almost million men, women, and children on sexual offense registries today at less than 0.00001%. And I probably haven’t used enough zeros.

Forty-eight years ago sexual offense registries as we know them did not exist. If they had, there is nothing in Gerald Turner’s history to suggest that he would have been on one. That means that Lisa would have been the victim of someone who was NOT already registered as having committed a previous sexual offense, and there we have close to 100% correlation to the individuals who are committing sexual crimes today. According to research, approximately 96% have no previous history of this type of crime and therefore are on no registries. They aren’t locked up or confined to their homes with all lights off on Halloween. They aren’t checked on by law enforcement to assure that they are keeping themselves away from all child-related activities. They don’t show up as red dots on a map warning parents away from those addresses.

They are in your homes, at your parties, in your neighborhoods. They answer the doors and hand out candy to your children. They are where they have always been. And all of the Halloween restrictions on all of the people on sexual offense registries across America mean absolutely nothing.

Sandy Rozek

Written by 

Sandy, a NARSOL board member, is communications director for NARSOL, editor-in-chief of the Digest, and a writer for the Digest and the NARSOL website. Additionally, she participates in updating and managing the website and assisting with a variety of organizational tasks.