GREEN BAY — The person behind the 1999 stabbing of a woman at Appleton's Hoover Park may never be caught, but a bill signed into law will help seek justice for victims of similar crimes.
Gov. Scott Walker signed the Justice for Survivors’ Act Thursday afternoon at Green Bay's Golden House.
It drops the six-year statute of limitations on first-degree sexual assault, attempted first-degree sexual assault and first and second-degree attempted homicide.
State Rep. Jim Steineke (R-Kaukauna) authored the bill. Steineke says the woman was stabbed at Hoover Park, who goes by the name of “Heather,” was the inspiration for the legislation.
“When I dealt with the victim in this case, it was just impressive to me just how she survived the initial attack, but more so that she survived the last 13 years and especially the last seven where she knew she couldn't get justice for her crime anymore,” said Steineke.
“It took about 10 years for me to regain my spirit but it's not the same and never will be because I think about this every day,” said “Heather” on Feb. 2, speaking publicly for the first time since the attack.
The Justice for Survivors’ Act is one of four public safety bills Walker signed on Thursday.
“There is no statute of limitations,” said Walker. “We can go back in time as far as it takes, and with the use of DNA evidence, it's not if, it's when we're going to find that person and bring them to justice.”
With some loopholes already in place for DNA evidence, some defense attorneys are unsure whether the new law is necessary.
“It might serve some good, you might pick up some guys who got away with it, I suppose, but at the same time, in Wisconsin, you can start a criminal case against somebody with nothing more than an uncorroborated accusation,” said Eric Wimberger, a Green Bay attorney.
Steineke says the law gives victims like Heather a better chance at justice.
“It's a great day. Even though it's not going to help her in her case, I hope it gives her some comfort that victims like her won't have to deal with the same thing she has,” said Steineke.
Before Thursday's law, only first and second-degree homicide and first-degree sexual assault of a child were exempt from the statute of limitations.
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