Crime, Justice and Public Safety
5:50 pm
Mon December 17, 2012

Parents of Murdered Children Push Death Penalty

Heather and Drew Collins, the parents of slain Evansdale girl Elizabeth Collins, met with Governor Branstad Monday to talk about getting the death penalty reinstated in Iowa.
Heather and Drew Collins, the parents of slain Evansdale girl Elizabeth Collins, met with Governor Branstad Monday to talk about getting the death penalty reinstated in Iowa.
Credit Clay Masters / IPR

In the wake of the discovery the bodies of two northeastern Iowa girls earlier this month, the talk of reinstating the death penalty is back at the state capitol. But proponents of capital punishment know they face a tough fight.

Iowa parents who have lost children due to kidnapping and murder met with Governor Branstad Monday morning to talk about reinstating the death penalty. Afterwards at a press conference, the parents told their stories.

Drew and Heather Collins, the parents of one of the Evansdale cousins whose bodies were found earlier this month, also met with the governor. They said they forgive their daughter’s killer. But Drew Collins said they want justice.

“These guys go to prison for this – their family gets to visit them… I’ll never get to visit my niece… I’ll never get to visit my daughter," Collins said "They don’t deserve……… to live. They don’t.”

Also meeting with the Governor was Republican Senator Kent Sorenson of Milo. He said he’ll be a sponsor of a bill to reinstate the death penalty next session. Sorenson says from June to October 2012 there have been 42 child abductions in Iowa. Sorensen says he knows it will be an uphill battle, but he’s determined.

“For someone that committed a double class A felony that has no reason to allow that victim to live," Sorenson told reporters at a Monday press conference. "In fact that person has probably a better chance if they don’t… that’s insane. The fact that we have that in the state almost gives the criminals a reason to do it.”

"I think it’s a real distraction to be having this debate about a death penalty when the perpetrator or perpetrators of those murders have not even been caught yet," said Democratic Senator Rob Hogg of Cedar Rapids, the newly appointed chairman of the Senate's Judiciary Committee .  “Every resource of state government should be deployed to catching the perpetrators of those murders."

Hogg says Iowa hasn’t had a death penalty since the 1960s and that’s fortunate. Senate majority leader Mike Gronstal echoes Hogg’s thoughts.

“Every time there’s a particularly tragic and heinous murder, people come back and start talking about the death penalty," Gronstal said. "I think the death penalty is immoral. I’m not going to move a death penalty bill forward in the senate.”

Governor Branstad said at his Monday morning news conference that he’s always been supportive of a modest reinstatement of the death penalty. That’s what the bill’s pledged sponsor Senator Sorenson said he’s going to have drafted in the coming days. He said he doesn’t want to make this a political fight, he wants to protect Iowa’s children.