Thanks to John and Julie Gleason of Greenfield, we now have a law dubbed “Colton’s Law.”
They are the parents of Colton Gleason, who died at age 20 after being sucker-punched by a man in a St. Cloud alley three years ago. Colton was walking home with others from downtown St. Cloud. A car pulled up next to them, five men jumped out of the car. Three of them surrounded Colton and one of them punched him as hard as he could, causing Colton to fall over and hit his head. He died later at the St. Cloud Hospital.
Colton, originally from Orono, was a student at Mankato State University and was visiting friends in St. Cloud.
The senseless, vicious attack was unprovoked, another stupid example of a “game” called “knock-out” that involves some idiot punching a stranger out of the blue to try to knock the person out cold.
The perpetrator of the attack was Jesse Smithers, 17, who had been released from juvenile detention just one day earlier. He was supposed to be under house arrest, with an electronic monitoring “bracelet” on one of his ankles. However, Smithers had not yet been fitted with the GPS bracelet. If he had been, Smithers would likely not have had the chance to go roaming around, looking for trouble with his dimwit pals, and Colton would be alive today.
Smithers pled guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Recently, John and Julie Gleason testified before the Minnesota House, urging its members to pass Colton’s Law. Last week, the legislature did just that. The law requires that no risky offender can be released from prisons or jails under paroled conditions without first being fitted with a GPS electronic-monitoring bracelet.
“He (Colton) should be here today,” his tearful father told the House committee. “And, had this law been in place, he would be.”
Colton’s murder hit home. The place he was killed was part of my growing-up years when we kids would walk home from downtown St. Cloud, often in the alleys, and that alley near 9th Avenue S. is one we often walked down after seeing movies at the Paramount Theater.
Colton’s murder also haunts me for another reason. One year in the 1980s, a wonderful young woman from Alexandria was abducted and murdered in St. Cloud by a man who had just been released from prison.
Missy Johnson was a talented, beautiful student at St. Cloud State University and was within weeks of graduation when one day she decided to walk her roommate’s dog in south St. Cloud, where she lived, just three blocks from my boyhood home.
She was very near the 10th Street S. bridge (now University Bridge) when a car stopped. A man got out, pointed a gun at Missy and ordered her into the vehicle. He later met up with a friend of his, and they drove around the central Minnesota area. Missy was raped, and the fiend who abducted her later took her to a wooded area near Richmond where he cut her throat and left her to die.
The vicious crime struck the Alexandria area like a thunderclap. At the time I was a reporter for the Alexandria newspaper, and I had interviewed Missy one time for a feature story about the Alexandria Marching Band, of which she was a member.
Witnessing the grief of her parents, David and Gail, was a heartbreaking sight. And so was the sight of her grave in Kincaid Cemetery in Alexandria.
What a terrible, painful, unthinkable loss of life. Missy was so looking forward to being an elementary-school teacher. That dream, along with her life, was viciously ripped away.
The sadist who committed the abduction, rape and murder is now in prison, supposedly for the rest of his life. He had been released from prison during the Fourth of July weekend and because of a holiday shortage of staff there was nobody to accompany him to a half-way house in the Twin Cities, where he was ordered to go. Instead, they gave him a bus ticket and told him to go there. Of course, the parolee had other ideas, other thoughts in his mind – evil ones.
I keep thinking if that monster had been fitted with a monitoring bracelet, Missy Johnson would now happily be teaching young children.
Thanks to Colton’s Law, we can hope more innocent people will be spared from the clutches of such disgusting criminals.