Reform Sex Offender Laws, Inc. (RSOL) denounces the brutal murders of Gretchen and Charles Parker and calls for immediate action to be taken to render sex offender registries less effective as vigilante hit lists. We specifically ask South Carolina governor Nikki Haley to use her executive powers to remove registrants’ street addresses from public view until the Legislature can consider a more comprehensive remedy.
Charles Parker and his wife were cruelly slain by gun and knife this past Sunday in their home in rural South Carolina. The man and woman who murdered them gained access to their home by pretending to have a broken-down vehicle. They openly admitted committing the murders because Mr. Parker was a registered sexoffender due to a conviction in 1991 for sexual misconduct.
The investigating officers “do not believe there was a motive for Mrs. Parker’s killing other than the fact that she was his wife…. He also told us that it was a good thing we arrested him last night because he had planned to kill another sex offender [on the] registry today.”
Vigilante murderers who target those on public sex offender registries need only turn on their computers and enter a zip code to get an instant list of potential victims along with their addresses. The registry has been used in just such a manner in a series of similar and horrific murders, and it is well past the time that it was stopped.
In 2005, two men on the Washington State registry were shot and killed in Bellingham by a vigilante who gained access to their home by posing as a law enforcement officer. Authorities investigating that shooting called it “one of the nation’s most serious cases of vigilantism aimed at sex offenders.”
Less than a year later, a twenty year old Canadian citizen murdered two convicted sex offenders in Maine, both of whom he had found on the state’s sex offender web site. To their credit, the state of Maine removed addresses from the public registry immediately.
In California in December of 2011, Bobby Rainwater, a registrant on the California registry, was brutally attacked and all but decapitated by an assailant. According to reports, the killer “…waited outside the home…with the intent to kill him because Rainwater was a registered sex offender.”
And then last year, again in Washington State, two registered citizens were slain by a vigilante who told police he was on his way to kill a third when he was apprehended. Police found a note in his car saying that he “hated sex offenders and that ‘It had to be done.’ ” One of his slain victims, on the registry for a consensual teenage relationship, left behind a young wife and two tiny boys. The other was the sole caregiver for his aged father.
And now two more people have been murdered. He had been on the registry for 23 years. His wife’s only “offense” was being in the home with him when vigilantes came to kill. Nor by any means are these the total of registrants slaughtered at the hands of killers who felt morally justified for their horrendous deeds. 37 known deaths of registered citizens, persons accused of sex offenses, and one family member have occurred at the hands of vigilantes since 1991.
This most recent victim and the other murdered registrants are individuals who served their sentences, fulfilled or were fulfilling their legal obligations, and were living lives in accordance with the law, raising their families, and asking only to be left in peace.
Well-documented, scholarly research verifies that the public sex offender registry does not serve a public safety purpose. What it does do is create a hit list of victims and a roadmap for their murderers to follow. Publicized offender registries are a danger to us all; we will not all lose our lives, as others have, but jeopardizing the civil rights and freedoms of some puts all of us at risk.
It is time for the state to remove this accessibility; history has shown there will always be those full of hate who will not hesitate to act on that hate. Government should stop aiding and abetting vigilantes by providing them a user-friendly hit list. The sooner Gov. Haley acts the better, for the sake of other potential victims.