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Family of slain St. Francis volleyball player advocate for cell phone safety measures

Published: Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2013 1:28 p.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, July 29, 2014 9:58 p.m. CDT

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WHEATON – More than 16 months have passed since former St. Francis High School and St. Louis University volleyball star Megan Boken was shot and killed for her smart phone on the streets of St. Louis.

Now, her family is working to ensure others don’t lose a loved one over a cellphone.

After the 23-year-old’s death, her father, Paul Boken, said that he began researching cellphone crime.

Whether it be a simple theft, such as the three Wheaton has seen in the last month, or something more serious, cellphone crime is on the rise nationwide.

Paul Boken discovered that New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón had joined forces in an effort to convince wireless carriers to install a “kill switch.”

With a kill switch, when owners report their phone as stolen, providers deactivate the device to discourage thefts.

The Bokens contacted Schneiderman to offer their assistance.

“When we realized that this was an existing problem that the average person doesn’t know about, we wanted to do something about it,” Paul said. “It was such a shock and so painful for us. We lost our beautiful daughter, who was as innocent as could be, who was doing the stuff that others should be doing. People need to know it’s a danger.”

Paul Boken and his eldest daughter participated in a press conference on the topic in June, speaking about Megan’s life.

The family has since worked to raise awareness about the “Secure Our Smartphones” initiative. The online petition at www.change.org has more than 3,500 supporters.

The past year has been a difficult one, said Lisa Boken, Megan’s mother. The family traveled to St. Louis last weekend to attend a hearing at which Megan’s killer, Keith Esters, 18, was sentenced to life in prison plus 20 years.

They also recently received the news that several cell phone providers rejected a proposed kill switch idea from manufacturer Samsung.

Instead of kill switches, CTIA - The Wireless Association, a nonprofit group representing the wireless communications industry, supports the creation of a database to prevent the reactivation of stolen smartphones, according to a letter from CTIA to the chairmain of the Federal Communications Commission.

In a joint statement, Schneiderman and Gascón called the rejection “highly disturbing” and said “if they did so to protect their own profit margins, as several recent reports suggest, it is even more egregious.”

But the time since Megan’s death has not been without joy – her sister, St. Francis junior Mary Boken, recently won a second state title in volleyball.

“She said she had been dreaming about being a state champion since she was a little girl,” Paul Boken said. “And I know that she dreamed about it, because [Mary] was there watching [Megan] do it.”

Lisa Boken said the community support in Wheaton has meant a lot to the family and has helped them be productive in their grief.

“I think we’re doing the best we can. Because I don’t know what choice we have,” she said. “We can either just waste away the rest of our lives and not accomplish anything or we can keep going and we can try and honor Megan through our actions and the way we live our lives.”

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