Iowa lawmaker says he plans to introduce death penalty bill

Missing girls might not have been killed if state had death penalty, Republican senator says

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A state lawmaker says he plans to introduce a bill to reinstate the death penalty in Iowa following the recent discoveries of the bodies of two missing girls.

State Sen. Kent Sorenson said he is looking to unveil the legislation in the session that starts in January.

The Milo Republican said the deaths of 8-year-old Elizabeth Collins and her cousin, 10-year-old Lyric Cook, have brought the death penalty issue to the forefront. Authorities say they are confident the girls’ bodies were found Wednesday in a wooded wildlife area about 25 miles from their hometown of Evansdale. They had been missing since July.

If the person who killed the girls knew he or she could face death if convicted, Elizabeth and Lyric might not have been killed, Sorenson said.

Someone who kidnaps or rapes “at that point has nothing else to lose,” the lawmaker said. “They’re going to face life in prison so they have no reason at that point to let (the victim) live.”

Iowa repealed capital punishment in 1965. State law allows life sentences for convictions of murder and the most serious cases of sexual assault and kidnapping.

Sen. Gene Fraise, chairman of the Iowa Senate’s Judiciary Committee, said there is not enough support in the Iowa Legislature for reinstating the death penalty.

“Even if it came up, it wouldn’t pass,” Fraise said. “Not only Democrats, but Republicans have pretty much agreed if we send someone to prison for life, they are sentenced to death in an institution.”

No death penalty bill has been debated in the Iowa Senate since the 1990s.

Republican Gov. Terry Branstad has said he supports reinstatement of the death penalty under limited circumstances.

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