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  Pennsylvania State Legislature First in Country to Hear
Testimony for "Nan's Law", Requiring Hoteliers to
Conduct Criminal Background Checks on
Employees with Access to Guest Rooms

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HARRISBURG, Pa., Jan. 20, 2004 - A grass roots effort spearheaded by the parents of a young woman murdered in her Chicago hotel room six years ago reaches a milestone Wednesday as Pennsylvania State Legislature will be the first in the country to hear testimony for "Nan's Law," requiring hoteliers to conduct criminal background checks on employees with access to guest rooms.
    
But the victory is bittersweet for Sol and Lin Toder of suburban Pittsburgh, whose 33-year-old daughter, Nan, was bludgeoned to death in a suburban Chicago hotel while on a business trip.  The crime and its aftermath: the revelation that the murderer was the hotel's maintenance manager with an extensive criminal history of violent behavior, has spurred legislation (HB1350) in Pennsylvania with other states possibly waiting in the wings.
    
Among the key speakers lobbying in Harrisburg will be Jason Morris, President of Cleveland-based Background Information Services, Inc., one of the country's leading providers of pre-employment screening and background checks, Representative Thomas Stevenson (R-Mt. Lebanon), the bill's sponsor and Sol Toder.
    
"The murder of this young woman may have been easily prevented with a simple and inexpensive background check that would have uncovered her murderer's criminal past," said Morris.
    
"The corporate-owned hotel chains have been performing background checks for years, but it is the individual, franchised-owned hotels that are most in question.  The procedural aspects of conducting background checks are straightforward and the expense is minimal when compared to potential injury or litigation."
    
A part-time aerobics instructor, Nan Toder had gone to the gym for an evening work out after a full day of job training on Dec. 12, 1996. She returned to her Hampton Inn room in Crestwood, IL, a Chicago suburb, and arranged a wake-up call for 5 a.m. A few hours later, hotel maintenance manager Christopher Richee gained entrance into her room by earlier rigging the lock on a connecting door to the room adjoining Toder's.  Richee bound his victim's feet and hands with telephone cord, cut her with a machete, choked her with his hands and strangled her with her pantyhose.
    
"When we learned that this beast had a lengthy past record of criminal activity, we had to do something," said Sol Toder. "These hotels have soaps and shampoos carrying their name to ensure brand recognition, but they don't take care of keeping their guests safe. That has got to change."
    
Richee went on trial for Nan Toder's murder in 2002 whereupon a jury convicted him of the crime in November of the same year. Now 35, he is serving life without possibility of parole.
    
"This legislation will help ensure travelers' safety in Pennsylvania," said Stevenson.  "Hopefully, no other families will have to experience the horror and frustration that this tragedy has brought the Toders."
    
 
NANíS LAW

Nan Toder was very cuteóshe looked much younger than thirty-three. Maybe that was because she was so vibrant, so vital. She taught aerobics part time; she worked out regularly. In fact, she had ordered a 5:30 wake-up call from her hotel room so she could work out on December 13, 1996.

This vibrant, vital woman never got that chance.

On the night of December 12, Nan spoke to her parents from her room, where she was staying while training for a new job. She was only going to be in the hotel one more night.

Nan was very cautious. She placed her suitcases behind her room door and latched the door to the adjoining room.

But it was not really latched.

On December 13, 1996, Nan Toder was brutally murdered as she slept in the Hampton Inn in Crestwood, Illinois. The murderer entered the room next to Nanís with a master key, and opened the adjoining room door which he had ďfixedĒ in Nanís absence. He attacked Nan with a machete and strangled her to death. After six years, the murderer was found guilty of her murder in first degree. He now serves a life sentence with no parole.

The murderer was the hotelís maintenance manager.

Many facts were brought out in the trial concerning the hotelís complete lack of guest protection: NO security cameras, no enforcement of night management duties, deactivated door alarms , inadequate and untrained guards.

But most troubling of all was a maintenance manager whose background was never checked. A maintenance manager who had a key to every hotel room and access to the hotel computer.

This man was known to the local police for harassing girlfriends. His former employer suspected him of a major burglary. The Hampton Innís manager even told police the murderer told her he liked to pull the wings off birds to watch them die, and throw cats into wood chippers.

In spite of all this, the manager gave him a master key.

We, Nanís family, want to honor Nanís life and redress her death by making hotels safer, particularly for women traveling alone.

Our idea, the ďNanís Law,Ē would require hotels to do employee background checks, and establish other rules and regulations for minimum hotel security. The Nanís Law could help prevent future tragedies, and could even help insurers of hotels reduce their claims, by making guest protection requirements a condition of coverage.

Hotel guests want to feel well cared for, with perks like free breakfasts and complementary shampoo. But safety and security are unspoken expectations. Currently, that safety and security simply does not exist. It would with Nanís Law.

April 6-11 was National Victims Rights Week. April, 2003 was also the month Nan would have been forty-probably still looking younger than her years. Instead, her vibrancy and vitality lie beneath a stone inscribed, ďShe brought laughter, sunshine and love.Ē

We cannot bring our beloved daughter and sister back to life. But we ask for your support in bringing our dream of Nanís Law to life.

Lin and Sol Toder
808 Hillaire Drive
Pittsburgh, PA 15243
Phone 412-279-6180
FAX 412-279-4971

For more information on Nan's Law, visit http://www.nanslaw.org .


 
Contact:
Lin and Sol Toder
808 Hillaire Drive
Pittsburgh, PA 15243
Phone 412-279-6180
FAX 412-279-4971
Also See: Owners of Hampton Inn Settle Lawsuit by Parents of Slain Guest for $4.6 million; Hotel's Maintenance Manager Convicted of Murder / April 2003


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