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Death-row inmate auctioning sketches

BIRMINGHAM (AP) — The family of 21-year-old Stephanie Gach, who was abducted and murdered in 1992, thought they had stopped her killer from continuing to hurt the family when they filed a lawsuit in 2004 over essays about the crime that convicted murderer Jack Trawick had posted on the Internet.

But Trawick, on death row at Holman Prison in Atmore, is back on the Internet — this time offering sketches of the mutilated corpse of a young woman on an Internet auction site.

"Just the thought of it makes me sick," victims' rights advocate Carol Melon said. She was speaking on behalf of Steph-anie Gach's mother, Mary Kate Gach, who was too upset to comment.

Attorney General Troy King said Tuesday his investigators are looking for ways to force Web Site operators to remove sketches by Trawick.

King said he believes the Internet postings may be a violation of a state law that prohibits convicted criminals from profiting from their crimes.

"We expect to send a letter to operators demanding they stop providing a forum for this art work," said King, who called the postings "atrocious."

Stephanie Gach was abducted Oct. 9, 1992 from the parking lot of her apartment complex after being followed by Trawick from a Birmingham shopping mall. Gach was strangled, stabbed through the heart and her body was thrown from an embankment. Trawick was also convicted of killing Aileen Pruitt, 27, about four months before Gach's murder,

Mary Kate Gach filed a lawsuit in Montgomery in 2004 seeking to force the Alabama Department of Corrections to stop Trawick from sending material to the Web sites. Her attorney, George Jones of Selma, said Tuesday that lawsuit is still pending, but that the postings appeared to stop after the suit was filed.

"We may have to file something new," Jones said.

Brian Corbett, a spokesman for the Alabama Department of Corrections, said prison officials are powerless to stop inmates from having their paintings and sketches sold on the Web sites.

"They're horrific," Corbett said of the images. "We don't condone them. But the DOC does not control the Internet."

Corbett said the material likely got to the Internet auction sites by being sent by traditional mail from Holman. Prisoners' outgoing mail is not inspected, except in special cases, because the volume of mail makes such screening impractical, Corbett said. The prisoners presumably mail their work to friends or acquaintances on the outside, who in turn get it to the Internet auction sites.

Trawick had his outgoing mail screened for a time after essays he wrote about Stephanie Gach were posted on a Web site in 2002.

Miriam Shehane, executive director of Victims of Crime and Leniency, said action needs to be taken to stop criminals from using the Internet to profit from their crimes or to further hurt their victims or their victims' families.

"It's bad enough for a loved one to be killed. Then the killer starts going on the Internet with this garbage," Shehane said.

In addition to the artwork, six letters attributed to Trawick also have appeared recently on one of the auction Web sites. In one letter, addressed to pop star Britney Spears, Trawick explains in detail how he would torture and kill the singer. He signs the letter to Spears, "Looking forward to our first meeting."

Judy Yates, victims' services officer for the Jefferson County district attorney's office, which prosecuted Trawick for Gach's murder, said the DA's office is investigating its options and may get involved.

"I know they think it's their right, but at what cost?" she said. "It's sick."


Information from: The Birmingham News

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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