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On September 7, 2013, I attended the fortieth memorial birthday celebration of Joan Angela D’Alessandro as a guest and speaker. The other featured speaker was John Douglas, New York Times Best Selling Author of the book “Law and Disorder”.

I grew up in Hillsdale, New Jersey from the age of five. My neighbors across the street were the D’Alessandro family, Rosemarie and her husband Frank and three children Frankie, Marie and Joan. There were only four houses on our block.

I was the babysitter for the D’Alessandro family when I was fifteen. On a bright sunny day, April 19, 1973, Joan walked down her front steps over to the house on the corner. She was a delightful, 7-year old Girl Scout delivering cookies to her neighbor, Mr. Joseph McGown, a young high school teacher for the nearby town of Old Tappan.

She never made it home. Joseph McGowan savagely beat her, raped her and murdered her in the basement of his home that afternoon. Later that same day, he drove to Harriman State Park, New York to dispose of her body. When the community came together to look for Joan, McGowan was among the volunteers.

When he was arrested, he confessed. Even though he received a life sentence, incredibly he was eligible for parole in only fourteen years.

Joan’s mother, Rosemarie D’Alessandro, together with her two sons, has worked tirelessly for over forty years to change the laws in this country. To date, only two states have adopted JOAN’S LAW - New York and New Jersey. JOAN’s LAW states that if a child under the age of fourteen is murdered in a sexual assault, the convicted killer will receive a life sentence without the possibility of parole. THE JUSTICE FOR VICTIMS ACT, states that there is no statute of limitations in a civil suit which may be filed against the perpetrator, on behalf of the victim’s family.

Rosemarie, John and Michael are my heroes. I loved Joan. She was an amazing little girl, full of life and love. I was proud to present orange and green roses to Rosemarie on behalf of the cast and production staff of IN SEARCH OF STEEL MAGNOLIAS. Rosemarie will be one of our featured Steel Magnolias.

The celebration for Joan on September 7, 2013 will be an event I will never forget. There was nothing somber about it. There were butterfly decorations and great food and music and dancing as we celebrated the short but amazing life of this beautiful child. Her murder has sparked a movement to see that our streets are safer for our children. Rosemarie is fighting for our society and child safety. The law was changed in New Jersey, but it was not retroactive in case of New Jersey v. McGowan. Rosemarie has fought to keep Joan’s killer in prison and to-date has been successful.

I loved growing up in Hillsdale. I loved being a Girl Scout. My mother was the cookie chairman. I still refer to it as home and I always will. This is no indictment against a particular place or civic group. It simply means that evil has no zip code and respects no-one.

Sharon Braxton and I are working on a short documentary to assist Rosemarie in getting the laws changed in all remaining forty-eight states. We intend to complete this documentary in three weeks. Please stay tuned and contact us if you wish further information.

Please see Joansjoy.org to find out more and see how you can become an advocate for child safety in your state. 

The Creator and Cast are available for appearances at your event. To request an appearance, please contact us for more details! 

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