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.”