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Funds For School Background Checks Running Dry

RIO LINDA, Calif. (CBS13) -- State budget cuts are threatening to yank funding for background checks of school employees, a program launched in the wake of the murder of a Rio Linda student 14 years ago.

A school janitor, Alex Dale Thomas, was convicted of the 1997 rape and murder of 18-year-old Michelle Montoya at Rio Linda High School. The crime took place just three days after Thomas was hired, and a background check that would have revealed Thomas' felony convictions and status as a parolee had not yet been completed.

Alex Dale Thomas, Convicted Of Killing Michelle Montoya
File photo Alex Dale Thomas on trial for killing Michelle Montoya. (AP)

The murder led to new laws requiring background checks for all school workers to be completed before beginning their employment, and also led to legislation that funded the development of technology that can complete background checks in hours.

State funding for the multi-million dollar program will expire by the end of this year because of the budget squeeze, and Montoya's family is hoping lawmakers find a way to fund the program.

"Michelle didn't die in vain. She's out there, she's helping the children, and I think she'd be very proud," said mother Pam Montoya.

Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones said the existence of the program is "critical" to law enforcement and the absence of state funding will force counties to shoulder the cost themselves.

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