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Sunday, January 10, 2016

Virginia Delegate Chris Peace Drafts Bill That Will be Known as “Eli’s Law” to Water-Down the Already Bloated VSP Registry By Adding Child Abusers to the Virginia Sex Offender Registry, Peace Says the Costs “will be Marginal”


Mother of assaulted Hanover baby works to put violent felons on registry, January 8, 2016
By Bill Fitzgerald

HANOVER COUNTY, Va. -- When you look for a new home, you may check the sex offender registry to see whether an offender lives in the area. 

But what about violent felons who have hurt children? They may not be on that list.  A mother who has lived through an unspeakable act of brutality against her baby wants to change that. 

"He was blue. He was struggling to breathe. His head was falling forwards," Courtney Maddox said, describing that terrifying day five years ago. 

For anyone unfamiliar with the story, what happened is almost unimaginable. 
 

"They told me to call my pastor, that they didn't think that he was going to make it,” Maddox said. Her sleeping infant son Elijah was brutally assaulted by her boyfriend. 

That friend had helped the separated mother of five with Christmas preparations around her house and went upstairs to change clothes.  Within minutes, Maddox heard Elijah crying. 

She described seeing her baby, almost grotesquely disfigured. “When I went up and checked on him, his head looked like - I compare it to a blown-up blue balloon. That’s what it looked like,” Maddox said. 

At the hospital a short while later, an even more disturbing realization. "What they thought was swelling, was his brain" coming through the skull, she said. 

The horrifying attack took place on Christmas Eve, 2010.  Two weeks later, doctors had to remove a portion of baby Elijah's brain. 

"They just said he was going to be paralyzed for the rest of his life," Maddox said. 

Russell Talley was sentenced to 20 years in prison for his violent attack against the defenseless child.  Exactly why Talley would have done that, Maddox isn’t sure.  But she said it may have been jealousy over the time she spent with the baby. 

Since 11-and-a-half years of Talley’s sentence was suspended, he'll be set free in four years. 

That troubles Maddox greatly. It also disturbs a state delegate from Hanover. 

"We can't take back what happened to Eli; we wish we could,” said Del. Chris Peace. “But what we can prevent is someone doing that to another child in the future after they've served their time." 

Peace worked with the child advocacy group SCAN and Maddox to create a bill that would put convicted felons who intentionally hurt small children and leave lasting damage, on the same registry that already includes sex offenders.

"We're optimistic about its success,” said Peace. “I don't anticipate it being any additional cost to the Commonwealth. If it is, it's going to be a marginal one. The cost to the Commonwealth is if we do nothing, and people are hurt in the future." 

For her part, Maddox likens violent, malicious offenders to domestic abusers. "I do believe that these people will abuse again,” she said. “I mean, just because he's getting out in 2020, doesn't make me think that he's not going to do this again." 

Eli was immobile for six months after his January 2011 surgery, but slowly began to develop motor skills.  Now, while he has limited movement in his left arm, he's an otherwise typical five year old boy.  Maddox says she's grateful for what she calls his miraculous journey. 

"He's so carefree and so happy, and so outgoing, and independent, and strong. He is so strong, and he's awesome," she said, tears welling.

Maddox said Eli is unaware of the attack he endured. She said she will tell him when the time is right. 

Right now Peace's bill is in the draft stage. CBS 6 will follow its progress through the legislative session.