By Dawn Krebs
PORT ST. LUCIE -- It was a bittersweet reunion for the family and supporters of Brittany Carleo in the Port St. Lucie city council chambers.
They had gathered there on June 24 to be part of a special presentation of the recognition of Brittany's Law, which was recently signed into law by Governor Rick Scott.
"I'm very honored and pleased," said Mayor Joanne Faiella at the meeting. "For the last three years, we've been working on this law to give the family closure. We finally got it."
The law was named for Brittany, a Port St. Lucie student who was killed in 2006 by a man who had been stalking her. Despite a restraining order, and being arrested three days earlier for harassing her at her work, registered sex offender Scott Uslan shot and killed Brittany and then himself.
Since that time, Brittany's family had been working with the police department, the city and state representative Gayle Harrell's office to draft and pass Brittany's Law, which states if registered sexual predators and offenders are arrested, they would not be allowed to bond out of jail until a judge can determine if they are dangerous. If the crime is severe, they could be held up to 24 hours before being released.
It took three years for the bill to pass through the legislature and become law.
It began with Port St. Lucie Police Officer Robert Steinkraus, one of the detectives who was part of Brittany's case.
He was present at the recognition ceremony, and told the city council, "This was a test in perseverance, for the police department and the people of this city."
Officer Steinkraus, Mayor Faiella and Rep. Gayle Harrell came together, and Rep. Harrell initiated the bill three years ago.
Rep. Harrell was also on hand to share in the success of the bill's passing.
"You've been awesome," said Mayor Faiella to the representative. "Just fighting every step of the way, you hung in there every year and helped us pass it. I can't begin to tell you how much I appreciate it."
"This is about the toughest battle I have every fought in the Florida Legislature," Rep. Harrell replied. "Every year, we kept getting stymied, and it was only the perseverance, fortitude and outpouring of support of the citizens that helped to succeed. On behalf of Brittany, I thank the whole city of Port St. Lucie."
Also recognized was Jordan Connors, a lobbyist for the city.
"You did an awesome job fighting for this bill when we thought it was not going to pass," Mayor Faiella told him. "You helped get it through, and I cannot thank you enough."
At the end of the presentation, Barbara Martin, Brittany's aunt, came to the podium.
"You finally got your closure we promised you," Mayor Faiella said to her, her voice breaking a little. "You got it."
She presented Ms. Martin with flowers and hugs.
"Mayor, this was something you took into your heart," Ms. Martin said. "You made me feel like family. I never felt part of a community before until now, until this took place, where everybody stood together and made this come true for Brittany.
"I know it's going to save someone else's life, and that means to our family that Brittany didn't die in vain. Her legacy will live on."