NEW BRITAIN, Conn. -- Connecticut Gov. M. Jodi Rell expressed "outrage and fury" at the murder of MaryEllen Welsh, 61, of New Britain, and again called on lawmakers to adopt a so-called three-strikes law, which majority Democrats recently rejected in the Judiciary Committee.
'This is a terribly grim day in our state," Rell said during a news conference in her Capitol office, detailing phone calls and e-mails from throughout the state from scared state residents.
"It is as despicable to commit a crime against an elderly person as it is to commit a crime against a child," Rell said. "Connecticut will deal with this evil and no other word is sufficient because it is evil that is confronting us."
Rell said she would meet later this week with the chief justice of the state Supreme Court, the chief state's attorney, public safety and prison officials.
Democrats defeated the governor's proposal because they said prosecutors need the flexibility to plea-bargain cases and that a three-strikes law would create many more jury trials that could actually free a percentage of defendants.
Republican lawmakers joined Rell in pushing for tougher sentencing guidelines for career criminals.
"We'll see people going to jail for longer periods of time and maybe we can keep these violent, evil people in jail longer," said Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, R-Fairfield.
The bill supported by Rell and GOP lawmakers would have required prosecutors to give reasons why they would not pursue three-strikes sanctions, which would put violent felons in prison for life upon a third conviction.
"People are not getting the sentences they deserve, for the nature and violence of the crimes, and we need to know why," McKinney told reporters outside Rell's office.
"This is someone who had two strikes against him, and we believe three strikes is a deterrent for that type of person," McKinney said. "After they're convicted of a second strike, the judge is going to look at them in court and say, 'If you get out and commit one more crime, you will go to jail for the rest of your life.' "
But Rep. Michael P. Lawlor, D-East Haven, co-chairman of the Judiciary Committee, disagreed, since the alleged murderer was not a second-time violent felon.
"Nobody has proposed a three-strikes law that would have applied to this guy," Lawlor said. "He's going to be locked up for the rest of his life because it's a death penalty case. Maybe the governor should talk to the people on the front lines."
Lawlor said that many of the 1,700 sex offenders on probation right now are living in homeless shelters. He said the probation officers that supervise sex criminals have caseloads of 45, when the recommended national maximum is 25.
"If the governor really wanted to do something about this, she'd talk and ask the professionals, 'What do you really need?' " Lawlor said.
Speaker of the House James A. Amann, D-Milford, said the governor is long overdue to meet with legislative leaders and law enforcement professionals.
"I call upon the governor to immediately sit down with legislative leadership and those on the front lines to discuss giving our prosecutors, corrections department and judicial branch the resources they have been asking for to do their jobs," Amann said in a statement."She likes to talk about three strikes, which has nothing to do with this tragedy, but refuses to deal with real issues such as giving prosecutors the tools to get longer sentences and prison overcrowding," Amann said.