Senator Janet Nguyen, Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens and Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas held a press conference today to announce the signing of Senate Bill 610, Erica’s Law. This new law would extend the statute of limitations on cases of body concealment, to one year from the time a suspect is initially identified by law enforcement and would also place a four year limit from when the crime occurred. This would provide authorities more time to hold those responsible for crimes of body concealment accountable.
Erica’s Law was inspired by the case of Erica Alonso, a 27-year old woman who disappeared on Valentine’s Day 2015 and whose body was found 73 days later in a dry creek bed near Ortega Highway and Hot Springs Canyon Road. According to the Orange County Coroner, her death was ruled accidental. However, given the location where her body was found, it appears that someone may have moved her body to conceal her death.
For over two years, Senator Nguyen and the Alonso family have been working together to craft legislative solutions to help enhance penalties and to extend statute of limitations for cases of body concealment.
“Today, I am proud to announce that Governor Brown signed SB 610 into law. Although SB 610 does not address the issue of penalty, we consider this a victory for the Alonso family, for other victims and their families and for the State of California. I am also very honored to announce that Senate Bill 610 shall henceforth be known as Erica’s Law as recognized in the bill’s language,” said Senator Janet Nguyen. “It’s been over two years since we lost Erica but her legacy lives on through this legislation. Erica’s Law honors her life, and provides future victims a greater opportunity for justice.”
Senate Bill 610 would specifically provide that for the offense of actively concealing or attempting to conceal an accidental death, a criminal complaint may be filed within one year after the person is initially identified by law enforcement as a suspect in the commission of the offense, provided however, that in any case a complaint may not be filed more than 4 years after the commission of the offense.
During the legislative process, Erica’s Law counted on the support of various law enforcement agencies including but not limited to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department and the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.
“SB 610’s increase to the statute of limitations will provide investigators with additional ability to pursue and charge individuals who commit the crime of concealing a body due to an accidental death. Extending the consequence for this crime will hopefully discourage such individuals from failing to be forthcoming with law enforcement,” said Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens.
For his part, District Attorney Tony Rackauckas spoke of the importance of Erica’s Law as a tool to develop stronger cases for prosecution, “I would like to thank Senator Nguyen and the Alonso family for doing the hard work on this legislation that will result in our ability to file more cases and bring justice to our victims,” said Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas.
Isaac and Margarita Alonso, Erica’s parents and principal advocates for Erica’s Law were also present at the press conference. Since Erica’s disappearance, the Alonso family have been champions for their daughter, calling for stricter penalties for body concealment, testifying before the State Legislature, hosting marches, candlelight vigils and serving as a voice for families in similar heartbreaking situations.
“Despite the unbearable loss of their daughter, the Alonso family have set an example of strength through unimaginable pain. I hope that no family ever has to endure what the Alonso family has suffered but thanks to them, there is now an additional recourse for families in these heartbreaking situations,” said Senator Janet Nguyen. “As an advocate for public safety, I believe that Erica’s Law will make our communities safer and I thank the Alonso family for choosing me to author this legislation which now bears the name of their beloved daughter.”
Erica’s Law is effective on January 1, 2018.