Written by Jeff Rivenbark
North Carolina Govenor Mike Easley signed The Jessica Lunsford Act into law Monday afternoon making the state's laws tougher against sex offenders who assault children.
More than 70 people crammed inside the Gastonia City Hall to witness the event.
"Today, we send a message that North Carolina will protect our children from vicious predators," Easley said.
House Bill 933 is named after the Gastonia native who was raped and murdered three years ago in Florida by convicted sex offender John Couey.
Jessica's father, Mark Lunsford, also spoke during the ceremony. He has lobbied legislatures around the nation for tougher child predator laws.
The Jessica Lunsford Act will make several changes to North Carolina's sex offense, sex offender, and sex offender registration laws.
Under the new state law, a sex offender who rapes a child under the age of 13 will get 25 years followed by lifetime satellite-based monitoring or the possibility of life imprisonment without parole.