Local News

Legislators consider bill stemming from Aaron Doty murder

SEBRING - An Avon Park woman says she will continue fighting for legislation that makes people criminally responsible if they don't report a crime. Roxanne Judd presented the legislation proposal, which arises out of the circumstances surrounding the murder of Aaron Doty where a few partygoers did not report the crime, to local legislators during their annual delegation meeting. Doty was murdered on June 9, 2012, while attending a party. Authorities said two men picked a fight with him, which resulted in Doty ending up unconscious. While he was unconscious, his assailants transported him to the woods and burned him alive, authorities said. None of the more than a dozen partygoers reported what happened. Several members of Doty's family, including his parents, supported Judd during the legislative meeting.
Legislators did not fully endorse the idea for immediate action this coming session. But they didn't reject it either. State Sen. Denise Grimsley, R-Sebring, suggested that moving ahead with such legislation should be done cautiously while criminal cases connected with the death of Aaron Doty remain unresolved. She and State Rep. Cary Pigman, R-Avon Park, said that they favored consulting with the state attorney's office on language for a possible bill. Grimsley asked about the status of those who attended the party, but did not report the crime. Judd said under the current law nothing can be done as far as charging them with a crime. Judd said she believes that needs to be changed. "I can't see them watching something happen like that and not doing anything and getting away with it," she said. Brenda Doty, the mother of Aaron Doty, said she supports the legislation. "People need to be held accountable," she said. Those who do not report crimes "should be just as culpable" as the person who committed the crime," Brenda Doty said. Pigman said he sees "a lot of merit' for the idea of holding such witnesses accountable for not reporting crimes. But there could be circumstances where a person would feel that reporting a crime would endanger their lives. "We have to respect that," he said. Pigman also suggested that in some circumstances people may have a certain amount of freedom not to be involved. That all has to be balanced when considering legislation, he said. Representatives of various programs and local government also appeared before the legislators. Highlands County Commissioner Don Elwell urged the legislators to approve legislation allowing for joint meetings of city councils, adequately fund efforts to control invasive aquatic plants, operations for libraries and to reduce unfunded mandates. Elwell also said the state should fund widening of U.S. 98 between U.S. 27 and Haywood Taylor Boulevard in Sebring. jmeisel@highlandstoday.com (863) 386-5834