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Homemedia'Crimes that Changed America': From Caylee's Law to the formation of MADD

‘Crimes that Changed America’: From Caylee’s Law to the formation of MADD

There’s been no shortage of crime in recent American history. Over the past year alone we’ve witnessed a rise in homicides, despite the coronavirus pandemic banishing most Americans to isolation for no small portion of 2020. But even the most seemingly senseless crimes could leave a tremendous impact; not just on the victims’ families – many of whom embarked on tireless crusades to honor their loved ones – but on society.

For Fox Nation’s ‘Crimes That Changed America,’ Emily Compagno traveled throughout the country to investigate some of the most infamous cases over the past half-century, in an effort to discover what really happened at the crime scenes – and learn more about the new laws that were put into effect as a result.


In 1973, a 7-year-old girl went outside to deliver Girl Scout cookies she had previously sold to neighbors, never to return home. Intercepted by her much older male neighbor, it wasn’t until three days later – on Easter Sunday of that forsaken year – that the young Joan D’Alessandro’s body would be found. 

In the special, Compagno explores the tragic story that inspired Joan’s Law, which ensures that anyone who murders and sexually assaults a child under 14 will never be eligible for parole. The law passed in New Jersey – Joan’s home state – in 1997, after her mother worked determinedly to make sure her daughter’s killer would never leave prison. 

A federal version of the law the following year. 


After 13-year-old Cari Lightner was killed by a repeat-offending drunk driver on this date 31 years ago, her mother Candy advocated to increase sentencing guidelines and change the national drinking age, ultimately forming the non-profit MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving).

Cari had reportedly been hit from behind, thrown 125 feet, and left in the road to die. The drunk driver responsible was out on bail from another alcohol-induced hit-and-run, and had three prior convictions for drunk driving over the course of a mere four years. 

Today, thanks to her mother, Cari’s legacy resides in every single state – with all 50 containing at least one MADD office. The offices offer victim services and many resources involving alcohol safety. According to MADD, drunk driving has been reduced by half since its founding.


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While no one in America expects Casey Anthony – who’d been charged with but ultimately acquitted of her 3-year-old daughter, Caylee’s, murder – to campaign on behalf of her child’s legacy, others have done just that. 

Two-year-old Caylee Anthony was missing for 31 days before police were notified. Five months later, her body was found. In what was dubbed the “social media trial of the century,” Anthony had shockingly been ruled not guilty of first-degree murder. In the special, Emily Compagno explains what happened—and how new legislation could prevent similar tragedies:

“Lawmakers set out to create new legislation that would require parents and guardians to report missing children in a more timely fashion,” noted Compagno.

Compagno interviewed former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie for the episode, who’d signed a Caylee Anthony-inspired bill into law in 2012. “Caylee’s Law” makes the act of failing to quickly report the disappearance of a child a felony in the Garden state.

“It was less the lobbying than it was the power of Caylee’s story and the tragedy of her death that really brought this to the forefront for legislators to get that kind of policy put on my desk,” said Christie.

To learn more about the various crimes that changed America, stream the series now on Fox Nation.

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Laura Carrione is an Editor with Fox News. 


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