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Alexander Zapp’s life could have been saved by a simple Background Check.

Alexandra Zapp was just 30 years old the night convicted sex offender, Paul Leahy, took her life. Alexandra, or “Ally” as those who knew her called her, was on her way home from a charity sunset cruise when she decided to stop at a Burger King at a rest stop in Bridgewater, Massachusetts. It was after midnight, but before leaving the Burger King to continue on her way home, Ally used the restroom. As she exited the restroom, she was met by Paul Leahy. Leahy, 39, and more than twice Ally’s size, pushed her back into the restroom.

The carnage, discovered by an off-duty police officer who happened to be using the men’s room at the time, was hard to believe. Ally had been stabbed six times in the neck, another six times in the chest, and once in the chin. Leahy also sliced her arms, wrist, and one of her hands. He then discarded her in one of the stalls, blood pooling around her body. When off-duty state police Lieutenant opened the ladies room door, investigating the sounds of Ally’s scuffle with her attacker, he found Leahy at the sink. Leahy’s only words were “I lost it.”

Leahy worked at the Burger King Ally stopped at that night. Neither the night manager at the restaurant, and certainly not Ally herself, knew that Leahy was a repeat sex offender with more than 24 convictions under his belt. His convictions included rape, kidnapping, drug possession, breaking and entering, theft, drunk driving, assault, and more. Although prosecutors tried to have Leahy locked up as a dangerous sexual predator, the legal system had other plans. As a convicted sex offender, Leahy was required to register with the Sex Offender Registry Board, but only about 1,000 of the more than 18,000 convicted sex offenders who were required to do so at the time actually did. The state’s record of monitoring sex offenders was even worse. Leahy, like many sex offenders, lived unsupervised, untreated, and free to commit more crimes.

That night, July 17, 2002, should serve as a lesson to anyone who believes that they are safe within the confines of a business. Ally’s murder highlights not only the failure of the legal system to monitor and police dangerous offenders, it also stands as a prime example for employers who may be liable for the crimes their workers commit.

There is little doubt that Burger King would have liked to have avoided the liability and the negative publicity that Leahy’s crime brought. Ally fought hard against her attacker. She bit Leahy’s fingers, head-butted him, kicked, clawed, screamed, and scratched. In the end, it was Leahy who won that particular battle as he had so many times before with victims as young as 13.

Employers also need to fight hard; taking measures that ensure that the employees they hire are not only safe to work with but who also promote an environment that is safe for their customers. There’s no doubt that a solid employer background check policy would have prevented Ally’s death.

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