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Sex Offender Site Back Up

Maine's registry went offline after two men listed were slain and the suspect killed himself.

April 19, 2006|Elizabeth Mehren | Times Staff Writer

BOSTON — The Maine Department of Public Safety restored its Web-based sex offender registry Monday, following the Easter-weekend slayings of two convicted sex offenders and the suicide of the alleged killer.

The site, which receives 200,000 visits per month, had been temporarily dismantled after the fatal shootings in Maine on Sunday morning of William Elliott, 24, and Joseph Gray, 57.

The suspected killer, Stephen A. Marshall, shot himself to death Sunday night in Boston after police confronted him on a bus. Marshall was a 20-year-old restaurant dishwasher from the Canadian town of North Sydney, on Nova Scotia's Cape Breton.

Authorities said Marshall had researched nearly three dozen names on Maine's electronic sex offender registry -- among them, Elliott's and Gray's. Maine public safety spokesman Stephen A. McCausland said Tuesday that investigators knew Marshall had visited the site because he typed his name in to receive more information, including addresses.

Marshall had a laptop computer with him when he shot himself, as well as two loaded handguns, Boston police said.

Maine's sex offender registry has been posted on the Web since December 2003, and is the most frequently visited portion of the state government website.

The Maine registry lists more than 2,000 sex offenders, supplying addresses, dates of birth, identifying characteristics and places of employment along with photographs. Sexual offenders in Maine are required to register with the state either for 10 years or for life, depending on the nature of their crimes.

A total of about 500,000 sex offenders are listed on Web-based registries in every state, according to Charles Onley, a research associate for the Center for Sex Offender Management in Washington. That agency is an arm of the U.S. Department of Justice.

A federal law passed in 1996 requires states to disclose information about perpetrators of sexual crimes.

"I'm not sure there is any perfect way to do it," Onley said. "It is something that the politicians and the public desire."

Most states display pictures of convicted sex offenders, Onley said. Addresses also are routinely listed, he said.

But the steps required to obtain this information vary, Onley said, and some states list only the offenders who are considered most dangerous.

Little research has been done to document the effectiveness of sex offender registries, said Elizabeth Joyce, a spokeswoman for the National Center for Victims of Crime in Washington.

"Questions are starting to be raised, but no one really knows if they are doing any good or any harm," she said. "The more outrageous, hideous and terrible crimes that take place, the more people want a solution -- and these lists are one thing that legislatures are putting in place."

No one knows if the registries help to reduce the number of sex crimes, Joyce said, adding: "The only thing you can say clearly is: It lets people know who these people are and where they live. If parents want to know if there is a sex offender in their neighborhood, then that in itself could be perceived as a solution."

Elliott was 19 when he was convicted in 2002 of having sex with a girlfriend who was about to turn 16. Gray's name was added to the Maine website after he moved from Massachusetts, where he had been convicted of sexually assaulting a child under 14, Maine officials said. The two men lived in small towns about 25 miles apart.

Marshall had been visiting his father in Maine. The father, Ralph Marshall, told Maine officials that he did not believe his son was ever sexually molested.

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