How many more kids?

We all know the odds. We all know the history and the pattern.

We all know that once a child goes missing, it's not good. At all.

But there are enough isolated cases of missing kids being found alive to give us hope.

Elizabeth Smart of Utah was discovered alive after nine months.

Thirteen-year-old Clay Moore of Florida was forced from a school bus stop into a pickup truck, bound and gagged and left in the woods, perhaps for ransom. But with the help of a safety pin on his clothing, he wriggled free and escaped.

William "Ben" Ownby, 13, had been missing four days, and Shawn Hornbeck, 15, had disappeared for four years, before both were rescued in a suburban St. Louis apartment lived in by accused kidnapper Michael J. Devlin, who is also charged with sexual assault and producing child pornography.

Still, such rescues and escapes are rare. Sadly, too common is the instance when what searchers find is a lifeless body where a child once dwelled.

That was the tragic case of Jessica Lunsford - whose child-molesting killer, John Couey, was recommended for execution by a jury in Florida last week.

And, again, such was the case of poor little Christopher Barrios, whose remains had been dumped near a roadside some three miles from his Brunswick-area trailer park.

He'd been last seen by someone playing on a swing set March 8.

To someone else, though, he was seen as little more than prey.

Police have arrested four people - including a convicted child molester, his parents whom he was living with across from Christopher's grandmother in the same trailer park, and a family friend.

Wow. Never would have seen that coming. A child molester, out on parole, allegedly swooping on a neighborhood kid - who ends up dead.

To add insult to tragedy, police say the suspects kept giving authorities false leads and conflicting information about not only the boy's whereabouts, but even about whether he was alive or dead.

Meanwhile, his body was wasting in a garbage bag descended upon by flies.

When is this society going to get serious about protecting children?

History may look back on this period of "sex offender registries" with horror and shame, as well it should. What makes us think that releasing a dangerous predator from prison and requiring him to simply fill out his address on a piece of paper makes him any less dangerous, or our children any safer?

It doesn't.

Nor does offering us the chance to have our children's DNA swabbed for the record do anything to protect them. It just makes it easier to identify them when they turn up dead.

That's all well and good, but what about preventing the death in the first place?

Absent some kind of maiming surgery, how can it be safe to ever release sexual predators, especially those who target children? We've been compassionate to child molesters for one more child too long.

It's not compassionate to anyone, even the molesters, to allow them the freedom that grants them access to our children.

It's time to give up on child molesters.

How many strikes do they get before we take them out of circulation?

How many more children do we want to find in trash bags?

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