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Web posted Tuesday, April 11, 2000


Week recognizes the rights of crime victims

By OLIVE L. SULLIVAN
Morning Sun Staff Writer

The death of Pittsburg State University student Stephanie Schmidt, in 1993, has had a far reaching impact on her family, the university and the state of Kansas.

At the time of her death, Stephanie Schmidt was working her way through college as a waitress at a small family restaurant. She had no idea she was working with a convicted sexual offender. That silence led to her rape and murder two days before her 20th birthday on July 4, 1993.

The day after their daughter was buried, Gene and Peggy Schmidt formed a task force to speak out for Stephanie. Among other things, they established several chapters of Speak Out for Stephanie on college campuses across the state.

This week is Victims Rights Awareness Week, sponsored by the PSU Speak Out for Stephanie Chapter, and featuring a speech by her parents, Gene and Peggy Schmidt.

Through the Schmidts' vigilance, their daughter's murder by a convicted sex offender has led to the passage of five bills in the Kansas Legislature less than a year after her death. They include the sexual predator act, which allows certain psychologically determined sexual predators to be civilly committed to mental institutions following completion of their prison terms. Since its implementation, at least six predators have been committed. The sex offender registration requires sex offenders released on parole to register. This registration is public information. First time offenders must register for 10 years; second time offenders are placed on the registry for life.

Under Stephanie's Law, sex offenders lying on job applications will have committed a felony instead of a 30-day misdemeanor.

In addition, most of the violent sex offenders were advanced on the grid used by Kansas judges to determine sentences. Incarceration time increased, and offenders fall under the "three strikes and you're out" ruling, placing them in prison for life after the third offense.

Victims Rights Awareness Week at PSU will include a variety of activities, including the Clothesline Project, with T-shirts decorated by women who sought shelter at the Pittsburg Safehouse. Safehouse has also provided information for distribution at SOS activities this week, according to Kory Vitangeli, assistant director of Housing at PSU and co-sponsor of SOS, along with Liz Largent.

On Wednesday, a multi-media presentation featuring music, dance and video will be given by nationally known victims rights advocate Nancy Hulse. Her presentation will be followed by the Schmidts' speech. Immediately after that, there will be a candlelight vigil. All these events will take place at the Weede Gym on the PSU campus.

Thursday, Jim Otter, chair of the Department of Engineering Technology at PSU, will present a self-defense workshop at the Weede Gym. Otter is also an instructor at Pittsburg's Karate Academy.

The Sigma Chi fraternity at PSU has also donated funds to make the Victims Rights Awareness Week possible, according to Matt Rhodes, public relations director for the fraternity.

The annual Derby Days celebration of Sigma Chi is national fundraising campaign, this year benefiting the Stephanie Schmidt Foundation.

The schedule of events for Victims Rights Awareness Week at PSU follows:


* Tuesday, April 11 -- SOS Information Table and Clothesline Project in the Oval from 10 a.m. - 2 p.m .

ID Passports at Wal-Mart from 4 p.m. - 6 p.m.

Please stop by the Housing Office to pick up a blue ribbon to wear all week.


* Wednesday, April 12 -- Multimedia Presentation, "A Rose by Any Other Name," presented by Nancy Hulse at 7 p.m. in the Weede.

Gene and Peggy Schmidt will speak after Hulse, at approximately 8 p.m.

Candlelight Vigil immediately following the program.


* Thursday, April 13 -- ID Passports at Ron's IGA from 4 p.m. - 6 p.m..

Self Defense Workshop at 7 p.m. in the Weede


* Friday, April 14 -- Tree Dedication Ceremony at 4 p.m. (University Lake).

If you have any questions, feel free to contact Kory or Liz in the Housing Office at 235-4245.

For more information on the Schmidts and their efforts, call the message and FAX center at 800-428-2725 or write to Speak Out for Stephanie, P.O. Box 7829, Overland Park, KS 66207.



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