Mariam’s Law: Georgia loophole frees convicted sex offender now accused of murder
An Atlanta man pleaded guilty to child molestation in 2015. When released from prison, he didn’t receive a sex offender risk assessment. Now, he’s accused of murder.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This report first published in 2022 won an Emmy at the most recent 2023 Southeast Emmys.
ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - A brother whose sister was brutally murdered last summer is urging the state to take legislative action to better identify sex offenders, including closing a loophole he believes may have prevented his sister’s attack.
Mariam Abdulrab, 27, was kidnapped, shot and killed last August, prosecutors said, by a stranger who abducted her from her boyfriend’s driveway.
Police arrested DeMarcus Brinkley soon after. He has since been indicted on nine felony counts including murder, kidnapping and attempted rape; his final plea hearing is set for June 23 and a trial is scheduled for October.
Brinkley is a repeat offender in Georgia, with a lengthy rap sheet, including child molestation.
From judges in the court system to mental health counselors, Brinkley has encountered many state officials throughout his life. Had any of them handled his prior convictions differently, Ali Abdulrab believes his sister might still be alive today.
That’s why Ali, along with some family and friends, created Mariam Forever, an organization advocating for substantial change in legislation to protect the community from preventable violent crimes. The group also created a document with a number of initiatives, including one that would require sex offenders carry identification cards which disclose their sex offender status. They’re calling the document “Mariam’s Law” and they’re looking for a state legislator to sponsor it.
‘It was preventable’
“She loved drawing. She was an amazing artist,” Ali Abulrab smiled, as he described his sister. “She probably didn’t know it while she was here, but I definitely looked up to her.”
Mariam Abdulrab was always creating. Today those sketches - along with a community mural in Old Fourth Ward memorializing her short life - is what Ali has left.
In the weeks after Mariam was kidnapped and murdered, Ali and his family were overcome with grief. Then, as more details came out, the trauma intensified.
“What happened to my sister was preventable,” Ali said.
CBS46 Investigates dug into DeMarcus Brinkley’s history and uncovered a schizophrenia diagnosis and a long record of violent crimes.
According to court records, Brinkley was accused of raping a 7-year-old girl in 2012. Then in 2013, he was found on top of a naked 6-year-old girl. In 2015, he plead guilty to child molestation, attempted rape, and cruelty to children.
Brinkley’s defense attorney at the time told the judge that Brinkley was one of 12 children. He was removed from his mother’s care by the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services when he was a teenager, according to court records, and placed into a residential treatment program for children with severe emotional and behavioral issues. He stopped going to school in the ninth grade. He also had a history of being abused by a stepfather, the defense attorney added.
The state recommended Brinkley serve 15 years in prison, followed by 15 years on probation.
Instead, Brinkley was sentenced to 15 years total: seven in prison, followed by eight on probation. He’d also have to register as a sex offender.
Sex offender risk backlog
When Brinkley was released in 2020, he never received a risk level assessment. That’s when offenders are assigned Level 1, 2 or 3, depending on their risk level for sexual re-offense.
Level 1 is the lowest level suggesting low risk for sexual re-offense; Level 2 is the next level suggesting moderate risk for sexual re-offense; Level 3 or Sexually Dangerous Predator (SDP) is the highest level, suggesting high risk for sexual re-offense.
“If you go on the Sex Offender Registry website, it says ‘Not Leveled’ on his [Brinkley’s] name still,” Ali added.
Ali’s right. CBS46 investigates took these findings to Tracy Alvord, Executive Director of the Georgia Sex Offender Registration Review Board (SORRB), who blamed a backlog for offenders not getting leveled.
“SORRB does have a backlog, which is due to understaffing and difficult hiring/keeping experts in this field, which is due to lack of funds. This is one possible reason Brinkley was not classified prior to his release,” Alvord said in a statement. “We are so glad Ms. Abdulrab’s family and friends are speaking out. We all need to listen. We want them to know SORRB is listening.”
Unlike some states where sex offenders are leveled on the day of their sentencing, Georgia levels sex offenders when they are released from prison.
The family’s proposed Mariam’s Law is comprised mainly of two policies.
- Requiring sex offenders who have not received a risk level assessment to be fitted with an ankle monitor. Once they are assigned, Level 3 offenders would be required to wear the monitor for the duration of their sentence, while Level 1 and 2 sex offenders could have them removed.
- Requiring sex offenders to carry an identification card with a specific symbol that is recognizable to law enforcement. A sex offender assigned Level 1 would have a red hexagon on the right side of their ID card. A sex offender assigned Level 2 would have two red hexagons on the right side of their ID card. And, a sexual offender assigned Level 3 would have three red hexagons on the right side of their ID card.
“There might be more DeMarcus Brinkley’s out there,” Ali said. “We don’t want this to happen to anybody else.”
Should it get sponsored, it’s likely Mariam’s Law will face some legal challenges. In 2019, the Georgia Supreme Court struck down a law requiring lifetime ankle monitoring of high-risk sex offenders.
Also, critics in other states call ID cards disclosing sex-offender status as modern-day scarlet letters. Nonetheless, CBS46 Investigates found at least eight states have such cards: Kansas, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Florida, West Virginia, Delaware, and Alabama.
The family has also received support from Keisha Waites, a former state legislator and now a Post-3-At-large Atlanta city councilor.
“I am very sensitive to an individual’s privacy,” Waites said. “I understand that. However, when it comes to a Level 3 and only a Level 3 sex offender, the dynamics are different. It’s about the greater public good. And in this particular case, had we had something like that in place, we could have tracked this individual, monitored him and perhaps saved her life.”
Waites is helping the family to get Mariam’s Law in front of the right people, and has sent the policy initiatives to her old colleagues in the General Assembly. “There is no cost that is too high to protect human life,” she said.
State Rep. Mesha Mainor, D-Atlanta, is a supporter.
“If you’re a Level 3 sexual assault criminal, people need to know that,” said Mainor, who does have concerns regarding identification cards.
“Everyone in the adult beverage store doesn’t need to know what your past is, but there are some people who need to know where you are,” Mainor said. “That’s why an ankle monitor is more important.”
Ali Abdulrab hopes Mariam’s legacy will go beyond murals and sketches, and into Georgia state law.
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