Raleigh, N.C. — People who commit child abuse would face tougher penalties under a bill named for a Union County toddler nearly beaten to death last year.
"I know in my heart this will save many lives," said Kirby Davenport, the mother of Kilah.
The toddler, who was on hand for a news conference Thursday, was 3 years old last May when, police say, her stepfather beat her, breaking her skull and collarbone and causing brain damage.
"The punishment needs to fit the crime," Davenport said.
If passed, Kilah's Law would increase the penalties for child abuse. Currently, first-time offenders can receive a sentence as light as three years in prison. That could happen in the case of Kilah's stepfather.
The proposal bearing Kilah's name raises the penalties to around 10 years for first-time offenders and to nearly 20 years in prison for someone committing a second offense.
Rep. Craig Horn, R-Union, the primary sponsor of the House version of the bill, said he visited Kilah in the hospital.
"It broke my heart but stiffened my resolve," Horn said. "We don't want to see what happened to Kilah to happen to anyone else."
The bill would also place a special note in the criminal record of anyone convicted of child abuse, making their past conviction as a case of child abuse.
"It will provide some notice to the public and (to the courts) of the background of the defendant," said Rep. Rick Glazier, D-Cumberland.
That information is critical but not always immediately apparent to court officials making decisions about how to charge defendants or what kind of plea agreements to make.
The bill is scheduled for its first committee hearing next Wednesday and appears to have broad-based backing from both Republicans and Democrats.