Last weekend my three small children held a campout in our backyard with a few of the neighborhood kids. While preparing for bed time I was thinking it would be totally safe — our yard is fenced and I left our family dog outside. The only problem was that if any of the kids were to wake up crying for whatever reason my wife I would not be able hear them in our room, all the way on the other side of the house.
As we prepared for bed I decided I would sleep on the couch in the living room, about 15 feet from the tent, and I would keep the window open so I could hear the kids better. My thought was that if any of the kids were to wake up and be startled because they were outside then I would be as close as possible to them. Then the thought popped into my head that if for some reason someone came into the backyard then the dog would bark and I would be right there to respond.
It is that second thought that is the result of the impact Marc Klaas and his daughter’s story have made on me. I wasn’t being over-protective or being spooked out. It was just a simple, common sense approach to having kids camping outside in a safe manner.
On Saturday, Klaas will be in Turlock for the second annual Community Safety Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The event will feature safety tips and child seat installation from the CHP and Turlock Police Department. Also on tap will be the Turlock Fire Department, American Red Cross, Eddie Eagle Safety Program and Turlock Irrigation District Power Safety Program. In addition, free giveaways include lifejackets and more than 100 car seats donated from various organizations.
GDI President Grant Davis explained why the event is so important for the community.
“This is an opportunity to give to our community. I care about kids and child safety. I have kids myself, and if this event saved one child then it is all worth it, from information to the value of a car seat. It can save a life. We are hosting and lots of other organizations will be here to make a difference,” he said.
Midsi Sanchez is also expected to be at the event. Sanchez was eight years old when she escaped her kidnapper in 2000. Last year she was features on ABC’s “20/20.” Patterson’s Tabitha Cardenas is also likely to make an appearance. Cardenas’ son, Juliani, was kidnapped more than one year ago from his grandmother’s arms. Cardenas' ex-boyfriend, Jose Rodriguez, took his own life and that of her 4-year-old son in January 2011 after kidnapping Juliani and driving his car into a canal.
The main event of the fair will be Klaas Kids Foundation, which will supply free fingerprinting and a photo/ DNA packet for children. The Klaas Foundation was founded by Marc and Violet Klaas in 1994.
On Oct. 1, 1993, Klaas’ daughter Polly Hannah Klaas invited two friends for a sleepover in her Petaluma home. Around 10:30 p.m., she opened her bedroom door to fetch sleeping bags when she saw a man with a knife. He tied the girls up, told Polly’s friends to count to 1,000 and he put pillows over their heads. The intruder, Richard Allen Davis, convicted felon on parole, then took a sobbing Polly off into the night.
Later that night, Sonoma County sheriff's deputies, unaware that Davis was a parole violator or that police had reported the kidnapping, let him go after finding his car stuck in a ditch on a private road near Petaluma.
In a confession to police, Davis said he had untied Polly and put her on an embankment a short distance away before the deputies arrived and freed his car. After they let him go, he said he decided he had to kill the girl to avoid being sent back to prison, and strangled her with a knotted cloth.
Davis eventually led police to the body near an abandoned sawmill in Cloverdale. After his trial was transferred from Sonoma County to Santa Clara County, a jury convicted him of murder, kidnapping and attempted sexual molestation, a verdict Davis greeted by raising both middle fingers to the jurors. He was sentenced to death in 1996 and he has remained on death row since — longer than Polly was alive.
Since the event, Davis’ case helped spark the push for the Three Strikes Law and the Klaas’ have launched the Polly Klaas Foundation, which is a nonprofit organization devoted to preventing crimes against children, assisting in the recovery of missing children, and lobbying for legislative assistance and laws.
In recent months Marc Klaas has been in the public eye, most notably for his verbal, public lashing of the California Senate Public Safety Committee, which killed a bill and a state constitutional amendment. The bill, SB1514 would have eliminated the automatic appeal process when guilt of the offender is not in question. SCA 20 would have deferred automatic appeals from the Supreme Court to the court of appeals, which has more judges able to hear cases faster.
“They don’t want the death penalty for any circumstances. So if they had Hitler on their hands he would just get three hot meals every day and guaranteed health insurance,” said Klaas.